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FTR #394 The Battle of Menwith Hill: Signals Intelligence & the 9/11 Attacks

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Pre­sent­ing analy­sis of polit­i­cal maneu­ver­ing around the Men­with Hill NSA/GCHQ lis­ten­ing sta­tion and the relat­ed US/UK ECHELON elec­tron­ic intel­li­gence gath­er­ing sys­tem, this broad­cast char­ac­ter­izes the German/EU attack on Men­with Hill/ECHELON as “the Bat­tle of Men­with Hill.” In turn, this con­flict fig­ures promi­nent­ly in the inter­na­tion­al diplo­mat­ic machi­na­tions sur­round­ing the 9/11 attacks-It may have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the attacks them­selves. The domes­tic prong could be accu­rate­ly char­ac­ter­ized as a Fifth Col­umn, com­prised of pow­er­ful politico/economic inter­ests allied with, among oth­ers, the Bush fam­i­ly eco­nom­ic under­tak­ings. Lat­er in the pro­gram, the attack on ECHELON/Menwith Hill by the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion will be dis­cussed in the con­text of the Fifth Col­umn attack on the U.S. It is the con­tention of this pro­gram that Al Qae­da and relat­ed insti­tu­tions (such as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the Al Taqwa milieu) con­sti­tute an ele­ment of a dual-pronged, Under­ground Reich attack on the Unit­ed States, not unlike that which led to the sub­ju­ga­tion of France in World War II. The con­cept of what might be called “Proxy War” (to coin a term) is one to con­sid­er.

1. Embody­ing the his­tor­i­cal and strate­gic analy­sis of the Bat­tle of Men­with Hill, the pro­gram begins with an excerpt of text from the descrip­tion for FTR 119, record­ed in Decem­ber, 1998. “In the wake of the Cold War, the lines of polit­i­cal strug­gle are being redrawn, with poten­tial con­flict between the Unit­ed States and Ger­many (and beyond, the Ger­man-dom­i­nat­ed Euro­pean Union) threat­en­ing to replace the con­fronta­tion between the U.S. and for­mer U.S.S.R. In the field of intel­li­gence, the U.S.-German con­flict is already begin­ning to man­i­fest itself. This broad­cast sets forth some of the most impor­tant and recent devel­op­ments in the fric­tion between Amer­i­can and Ger­man intel­li­gence. After a brief dis­cus­sion of Ger­many’s expul­sion of an Amer­i­can diplo­mat who alleged­ly worked for the CIA, the broad­cast repris­es a sec­tion of FTR 103 orig­i­nal­ly broad­cast in August, 1998. This sec­tion of the pro­gram sets forth fric­tion between Ger­man intel­li­gence chief Bernd Schmid­bauer and the FBI over indus­tri­al spy­ing, as well as a con­sum­mate­ly impor­tant sto­ry about attempts by the Euro­pean Union (read ‘Ger­many’) to com­pro­mise the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agen­cy’s vital Men­with Hill elec­tron­ic lis­ten­ing post in Eng­land. Mr. Emory has char­ac­ter­ized that pres­sure on the NSA facil­i­ty as an act of war and believes it to be (in the ‘Infor­ma­tion Age’) as strate­gi­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant as the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor in World War II.”

2. In the con­text of what fol­lows, it is very impor­tant to note that the orig­i­nal broad­cast ref­er­enced in the above descrip­tion was record­ed in August of 1998. That was the month in which Al Qae­da attacked the U.S. embassies in Africa and the month in which Osama bin Laden appar­ent­ly stopped using his satel­lite phone for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. Is there a rela­tion­ship between the begin­ning of the Bat­tle of Men­with Hill and bin Laden’s switch to a couri­er sys­tem for oper­a­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tions?

3. Dis­cussing NSA mon­i­tor­ing of bin Laden’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, a recent best­seller not­ed the sig­nif­i­cance of August, 1998 in the con­text of Al Qae­da oper­a­tions and a shift by OBL to a couri­er sys­tem. “But even though NSA had the capa­bil­i­ty to inter­cept many con­ver­sa­tions to and from bin Laden and oth­er mem­bers of Al Qae­da-includ­ing some of those alleged­ly involved in the bomb­ing of the Amer­i­can embassies in East Africa-the infor­ma­tion was not enough to pre­vent the attacks.” (Body of Secrets; James Bam­ford; Copy­right 2001, 2002 James Bam­ford; [SC] Anchor Books; p. 616.)

4. “Many of the calls were inter­cept­ed by Britain’s GCHQ at their lis­ten­ing post at Mor­wen­stow, near Bude, in Corn­wall. There, close to the end­less white­caps of the Celtic Sea, near­ly a dozen dish­es pick up sig­nals from com­mer­cial satel­lites such as Inmarsat and INTELSAT. The inter­cept­ed phone calls, fax­es, Inter­net, and data trans­fers are then for­ward­ed to GCHQ’s sprawl­ing head­quar­ters in Chel­tenham. Once fil­tered and ana­lyzed, they would be for­ward­ed to NSA over secure encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions links.” (Idem.)

5. “Oth­er calls to and from bin Laden were picked up thou­sands of miles to the south of Afghanistan, at a lis­ten­ing post run by Aus­trali­a’s Defense Sig­nals Divi­sion locat­ed at Ger­ald­ton, a scruffy port on the Indi­an Ocean about 210 miles north of Perth. Sit­u­at­ed in the west­ern­most part of the coun­try, Ger­ald­ton was built in 1994 to eaves­drop on com­mer­cial satel­lites over the Indi­an Ocean.” (Idem.)

6. As not­ed above, August of 1998 was a fate­ful month in the sequence of events being con­sid­ered here. That was when Al Qae­da attacked US embassies in Africa, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton retal­i­at­ed with cruise mis­sile attacks on bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and the Bat­tle of Men­with Hill began. Clin­ton was fac­ing impeach­ment at the time, and was stat­ed by the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, among oth­er insti­tu­tions, to have con­duct­ed the attacks on Afghanistan and the Al Shi­fa phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal plant (FTR#‘s 344–46).“Eventually, fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s 1998 Amer­i­can cruise mis­sile attack on bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan, and the real­iza­tion that his loca­tion could be betrayed by sig­nals from the satel­lite phone, he stopped using the instru­ment. Now when one calls his num­ber, all they hear is a record­ing stat­ing he is ‘not logged on or not in the dialed ocean region.’ ” (Idem.)

7. “Since 1998, bin Laden com­mu­ni­cates only through mes­sen­gers who make calls for him from dis­tant loca­tions. Nev­er­the­less, these are also occa­sion­al­ly inter­cept­ed. One such call, picked up by NSA ear­ly in Sep­tem­ber 2001, was from a bin Laden asso­ciate to bin Laden’s wife in Syr­ia, advis­ing her to return to Afghanistan. At the time, it was filed away when instead it should have been one more clue, one more rea­son for direc­tor Hay­den to wor­ry on the morn­ing of Sep­tem­ber 11.” (Ibid.; pp. 616–617.)

8. The pro­gram then repris­es an excerpt of FTR 166 from July, 1999, high­light­ing Ger­man pro­pa­gan­da about the Men­with Hill sta­tion and relat­ed pro­grams being the cause of Ger­many’s eco­nom­ic woes. Like “the Bat­tle of Men­with Hill” itself, this is a very sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment from a strate­gic stand­point. (“U.S. Spy Satel­lites raid­ing Ger­man firms’ Secrets” by Tony Pat­ter­son; Elec­tron­ic Tele­graph; 4/11/99.)

9. A barom­e­ter of the recent adverse pub­lic­i­ty stem­ming from the Men­with Hill sit­u­a­tion, demon­stra­tors have been demand­ing the insti­tu­tion’s atten­u­a­tion. (“New Action at Spy­base;” York­shire Evening Post; 9/16/99.)

10. Touch­ing on an ele­ment of the dis­cus­sion from pre­vi­ous broad­casts, we note again that the Ger­man scape­goat­ing of Men­with Hill for the coun­try’s eco­nom­ic prob­lems coin­cid­ed with an assault from the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion in the Unit­ed States. Not­ing the fas­cist her­itage of the FCF and its inter­sec­tion with the milieu of the ABN/Republican eth­nic out­reach orga­ni­za­tion, the pro­gram fea­tures dis­cus­sion of the FCF’s attack on the Men­with Hill (York­shire) and ECHELON ele­ments of the vital­ly impor­tant NSA/GCHQ elec­tron­ic coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence func­tion. (“Big Broth­er Is Lis­ten­ing to You” by Lisa S. Dean; San Fran­cis­co Exam­in­er; 7/5/1999.) The pro­gram notes that the attack by the FCF on ECHELON/Menwith Hill coin­cid­ed with a Ger­man intel­li­gence and pub­lic rela­tions blitzkrieg against these same instal­la­tions. The motive for the Ger­man “out­rage” was alleged indus­tri­al espi­onage. Ger­many had the same capa­bil­i­ty, while charg­ing that the ECHELON/Menwith Hill liai­son had pro­vid­ed the Unit­ed States with that capa­bil­i­ty. The pro­gram con­cep­tu­al­izes the FCF attack on ECHELON/Menwith Hill as pre­sag­ing the 9/11 attack on the Unit­ed States by the Under­ground Reich and its Islam­o­fas­cist allies. By dis­cred­it­ing the U.S. elec­tron­ic intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ty, pro­mot­ing domes­tic U.S. oppo­si­tion to ECHELON/Menwith Hill and alert­ing Al Qae­da ele­ments to the capa­bil­i­ties of the inter­cept sys­tem, FCF and its Under­ground Reich allies might be viewed as hav­ing helped to pre­pare for the destruc­tion of 9/11. The sub­ject of FCF and its attack on ECHELON/Menwith Hill will be dis­cussed in future pro­grams.

11. When con­sid­er­ing the admirable-sound­ing civic protes­ta­tions of Lisa Dean, take into account the con­nec­tions of the FCF to the milieu of the ABN and domes­tic white suprema­cists. (FTR#367). Take into account the fol­low­ing arti­cle, as well. It is open­ly sedi­tious and makes Trent Lott look like a “Lat­te Lib­er­al.” “A 1999 newslet­ter pub­lished by a man look­ing to lead Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Repub­li­can Par­ty includ­ed an essay sug­gest­ing the Unit­ed States would be a bet­ter place if the South had won the Civ­il War. The piece, by William Lind of the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion, was includ­ed in a GOP e‑mail newslet­ter pub­lished by Bill Back of Yuba Coun­ty, who’s cur­rent­ly vice chair­man of the state Repub­li­can Par­ty. . . Lind’s piece sug­gest­ed that it was Recon­struc­tion, not slav­ery, that real­ly dam­aged race rela­tions in the coun­try and that eco­nom­ics even­tu­al­ly would have elim­i­nat­ed slav­ery, even with­out a war.” (“State GOP Offi­cial in Racial Con­tro­ver­sy” by John Wil­der­muth; The San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 1/5/2003; p. A23.)

12. “” ‘It’s not hard to believe that his­to­ry might have tak­en a bet­ter turn,’ if the South had won the Civ­il War, the piece said. If the South were a sep­a­rate coun­try, it con­tin­ued, ‘at least part of North Amer­i­ca would still stand for West­ern Cul­ture, Chris­tian­i­ty and an appre­ci­a­tion of the dif­fer­ences between ladies and gen­tle­men.’ ” (Ibid.; pp. A23-A28.)

13. Much of the sec­ond side of the broad­cast is an excerpt of FTR#331. The pro­gram takes up the sub­ject of an alle­ga­tion by Ger­man intel­li­gence that the ECHELON sys­tem pro­vid­ed the U.S. and the Unit­ed King­dom with advanced warn­ing of the 9/11 attacks. (“News­pa­per: ECHELON Gave Author­i­ties Warn­ing of Attacks” by Ned Stafford [News­bytes]; 9/13/2001.) With the epi­cen­ter of the con­spir­a­cy hav­ing tak­en place in Ger­many, this alle­ga­tion by the Ger­mans would appear to be an attempt at deflect­ing par­tial respon­si­bil­i­ty for the attack away from them­selves. As not­ed in past pro­grams, Ger­many has been attack­ing the ECHELON net­work and the relat­ed Men­with Hill lis­ten­ing sta­tion for years. In the past, Mr. Emory has voiced the opin­ion that ECHELON and Men­with Hill are essen­tial to both U.S. and British nation­al secu­ri­ty and has ana­lyzed the EU/German pres­sure to cur­tail these oper­a­tions against the back­ground of esca­lat­ing intel­li­gence fric­tion between the U.S. and Ger­many.

14. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, a long-await­ed Euro­pean Par­lia­ment report on ECHELON con­clud­ed that “many Euro­pean coun­tries had sim­i­lar abilities”-that would undoubt­ed­ly include Ger­many. (“Report on U.S. Spy Sys­tem” by Suzanne Daley; New York Times; 9/6/2001; p. A6.)

15. In light of that fact, why did­n’t Ger­man intel­li­gence know about the attacks? A Libyan arrest­ed in Munich in con­nec­tion with the attacks had been under inves­ti­ga­tion since April. (“Egypt­ian Ter­ror Cell ‘Linked to Bin Laden’ ” by Heba Saleh; Finan­cial Times; 10/12/2001; p. 5.)

16. The Ger­man pros­e­cu­tor in charge of the inves­ti­ga­tion has been charged with ignor­ing evi­dence that might have led to the inter­dic­tion of the attacks. (“Berlin Demands Boost in Ter­ror Probe” by Hugh Williamson; Finan­cial Times; 10/9/2001; p. 2.)

17. Exam­in­ing the geopo­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits that have accrued to Ger­many from the 9/11 attacks, the broad­cast notes that Ger­man chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroder stat­ed that Ger­many will no longer play ‘a sec­ondary role’ in inter­na­tion­al affairs. (“Ger­many Ready for More Senior Role in World Affairs” by Haig Simon­ian; Finan­cial Times; 10/12/2001; p. 7.)

18. In light of recent devel­op­ments vis a vis Iraq, the book Ser­pen­t’s Walk takes on added sig­nif­i­cance.

“It assumes that Hitler’s war­rior elite — the SS — did­n’t give up their strug­gle for a White world when they lost the Sec­ond World War. Instead their sur­vivors went under­ground and adopt­ed some of their tac­tics of their ene­mies: they began build­ing their eco­nom­ic mus­cle and buy­ing into the opin­ion-form­ing media. A cen­tu­ry after the war they are ready to chal­lenge the democ­rats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Amer­i­cans, who have begun to have their fill of gov­ern­ment-enforced mul­ti-cul­tur­al­ism and ‘equal­i­ty.’ ”

(Excerpt from back cov­er of Ser­pen­t’s Walk by “Ran­dolph D. Calver­hall;” Copy­right 1991 [SC]; Nation­al Van­guard Books; 0–937944-05‑X.)

19. Recall that in Ser­pen­t’s Walk, the takeover by the Under­ground Reich takes place after a dev­as­tat­ing bioter­ror attack on the Unit­ed States using genet­i­cal­ly-engi­neered micro-organ­isms. Bear­ing in mind Iraq’s own his­to­ry of inter­sec­tion with fas­cism and the Under­ground Reich, it is inter­est­ing to observe an unset­tling fact about the like­li­hood of a bioter­ror attack by Iraqi-allied inter­ests after a US mil­i­tary attack on that coun­try.

“Despite claims that it has enough small­pox vac­cine for the entire U.S. pop­u­la­tion, the Bush admin­is­tra­tion has announced a lim­it­ed pro­gram of vac­ci­na­tions. It has decid­ed to lim­it them to about a mil­lion mil­i­tary and select­ed health care work­ers in the first iter­a­tion, and then 10 mil­lion emer­gency work­ers in a sec­ond round. Con­fronting ‘high con­fi­dence’ intel­li­gence find­ings that Sad­dam Hus­sein has small­pox that could be released in Amer­i­can cities in retal­i­a­tion for U.S. attacks that might begin next month, the admin­is­tra­tion dis­plays a cau­tion about defend­ing Amer­i­cans at home that con­trasts sharply with its readi­ness to attack adver­saries abroad.”

(“Unpre­pared for Small­pox” by Gra­ham T. Alli­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 12/26/2002; p. A39.)

20. “The chair­man of the Sen­ate intel­li­gence com­mit­tee, Bob Gra­ham of Flori­da, has esti­mat­ed the like­li­hood of an Amer­i­can-led war on Iraq in Jan­u­ary or Feb­ru­ary at 70 per­cent. Imag­ine Hus­sein responds as the lat­est, recent­ly declas­si­fied nation­al intel­li­gence Esti­mate pre­dicts he is ‘like­ly’ to do with a bio­log­i­cal attack on Amer­i­cans. Who believes that the new­ly estab­lished Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty will be able to pro­vide ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the virus, sup­ply vac­cines to hos­pi­tals and schools across the coun­try or admin­is­ter vac­cines to 280 mil­lion Amer­i­cans? The pub­lic health debate has treat­ed this issue as if we were prepar­ing for a dis­tant hypo­thet­i­cal. But the new infor­ma­tion about Hus­sein’s capa­bil­i­ties makes it clear that a peri­od of max­i­mum dan­ger lies not years, but months away.”


21. “Should Hus­sein take a page from tom Clan­cy’s nov­el ‘Exec­u­tive orders’ and dis­patch oper­a­tives to a half-dozen Amer­i­can cities with per­fume bot­tles filled with small­pox to spray in shop­ping cen­ters, how bad could it be? Were this to hap­pen ear­ly next year, the ‘Dark Win­ter’ war game orga­nized by some of the nation’s lead­ing think tanks last year offers clues about like­ly con­se­quences. That sce­nario end­ed with 3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans infect­ed, 1 mil­lion of whom died.”


22. “How like­ly is such an attack? Obvi­ous­ly, no one knows. But Amer­i­can’s best intel­li­gence ana­lysts offered their judg­ment on this ques­tion in the lat­est Nation­al Intel­li­gence Esti­mate on Iraq. Only after a pos­i­tive vote in con­gress autho­riz­ing use of force against Iraq was ensured were the rel­e­vant por­tions of this esti­mate declas­si­fied. Its con­clu­sion is chill­ing. In a clas­si­fied Sen­ate hear­ing on the esti­mate, Sen. Carl Levin (D‑Mich.) pressed the ques­tion: ‘If we ini­ti­ate an attack and he thought he was in extrem­is or oth­er­wise, what’s the like­li­hood in response to our attack that he would use chem­i­cal or bio­log­i­cal weapons?’ The senior intel­li­gence ana­lyst answered: ‘pret­ty high.’ ”



3 comments for “FTR #394 The Battle of Menwith Hill: Signals Intelligence & the 9/11 Attacks”

  1. With reports of wide­spread war­rant­less wire­tap­ping/G­PS-track­ing by US law-enforce­ment agen­cies, the NSA wants you to know that they’re not watch­ing you and there’s noth­ing to wor­ry about. All those new spy­ing facil­i­ties are exclu­sive­ly for spy­ing on bad peo­ple. The pri­vate con­trac­tors hired to run the NSA’s spy cen­ters say dit­to:

    Shady Com­pa­nies With Ties to Israel Wire­tap the U.S. for the NSA

    By James Bam­ford
    April 3, 2012 |
    6:30 am

    Army Gen­er­al Kei­th Alexan­der, the direc­tor of the NSA, is hav­ing a busy year — hop­ping around the coun­try, cut­ting rib­bons at secret bases and bring­ing to life the agency’s great­ly expand­ed eaves­drop­ping net­work.

    In Jan­u­ary he ded­i­cat­ed the new $358 mil­lion CAPT Joseph J. Rochefort Build­ing at NSA Hawaii, and in March he unveiled the 604,000-square-foot John Whitelaw Build­ing at NSA Geor­gia.

    Designed to house about 4,000 ear­phone-clad inter­cept oper­a­tors, ana­lysts and oth­er spe­cial­ists, many of them employed by pri­vate con­trac­tors, it will have a 2,800-square-foot fit­ness cen­ter open 24/7, 47 con­fer­ence rooms and VTCs, and “22 caves,” accord­ing to an NSA brochure from the event. No tele­vi­sion news cam­eras were allowed with­in two miles of the cer­e­mo­ny.

    Over­seas, Men­with Hill, the NSA’s giant satel­lite lis­ten­ing post in York­shire, Eng­land that sports 33 giant dome-cov­ered eaves­drop­ping dish­es, is also under­go­ing a mul­ti-mil­lion-dol­lar expan­sion, with $68 mil­lion alone being spent on a gen­er­a­tor plant to pro­vide pow­er for new super­com­put­ers. And the num­ber of peo­ple employed on the base, many of them employ­ees of Lock­heed Mar­tin and Northrop Grum­man, is due to increase from 1,800 to 2,500 in 2015, accord­ing to a study done in Britain. Clos­er to home, in May, Fort Meade will close its 27-hole golf course to make room for a mas­sive $2 bil­lion, 1.8‑million-square-foot expan­sion of the NSA’s head­quar­ters, includ­ing a cyber­com­mand com­plex and a new super­com­put­er cen­ter expect­ed to cost near­ly $1 bil­lion.

    The cli­max, how­ev­er, will be the open­ing next year of the NSA’s mam­moth 1‑mil­lion-square-foot, $2 bil­lion Utah Data Cen­ter. The cen­ter­piece in the agency’s decade-long build­ing boom, it will be the “cloud” where the tril­lions of mil­lions of inter­cept­ed phone calls, e‑mails, and data trails will reside, to be scru­ti­nized by dis­tant ana­lysts over high­ly encrypt­ed fiber-optic links.

    Despite the post‑9/11 war­rant­less wire­tap­ping of Amer­i­cans, the NSA says that cit­i­zens should trust it not to abuse its grow­ing pow­er and that it takes the Con­sti­tu­tion and the nation’s pri­va­cy laws seri­ous­ly.

    But one of the agency’s biggest secrets is just how care­less it is with that ocean of very pri­vate and very per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions, much of it to and from Amer­i­cans. Increas­ing­ly, obscure and ques­tion­able con­trac­tors — not gov­ern­ment employ­ees — install the taps, run the agency’s eaves­drop­ping infra­struc­ture, and do the lis­ten­ing and analy­sis.

    And with some of the key com­pa­nies build­ing the U.S.’s sur­veil­lance infra­struc­ture for the dig­i­tal age employ­ing unsta­ble employ­ees, crooked exec­u­tives, and hav­ing trou­bling ties to for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vices, it’s not clear that Amer­i­cans should trust the secre­tive agency, even if its cur­rent agency chief claims he doesn’t approve of extra­ju­di­cial spy­ing on Amer­i­cans. His pre­de­ces­sor, Gen­er­al Michael V. Hay­den, made sim­i­lar claims while secret­ly con­duct­ing the war­rant­less wire­tap­ping pro­gram.

    Until now, the actu­al mechan­ics of how the agency con­struct­ed its high­ly secret U.S. eaves­drop­ping net, code-named Stel­lar Wind, has nev­er been revealed. But in the weeks fol­low­ing 9/11, as the agency and the White House agreed to secret­ly ignore U.S. pri­va­cy laws and bypass the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court, J. Kirk Wiebe noticed some­thing odd. A senior ana­lyst, he was serv­ing as chief of staff for the agency’s Sig­nals Intel­li­gence Automa­tion Research Cen­ter (SARC), a sort of skunkworks with­in the agency where bureau­crat­ic rules were bro­ken, red tape was cut, and inno­va­tion was expect­ed.

    “One day I notice out in the hall­way, stacks and stacks of new servers in box­es just lined up,” he said.

    Pass­ing by the piles of new Dell 1750 servers, Wiebe, as he often did, head­ed for the Sit­u­a­tion Room, which dealt with threat warn­ings. It was locat­ed with­in the SARC’s Lab, on the third floor of Oper­a­tions Build­ing 2B, a few floors direct­ly below the director’s office. “I walk in and I almost get thrown out by a guy that we knew named Ben Gunn,” he said. It was the launch of Stel­lar Wind and only a hand­ful of agency offi­cials were let in on the secret.

    “He was the one who orga­nized it,” said Bill Bin­ney of Gunn. A for­mer founder and co-direc­tor of SARC, Bin­ney was the agency offi­cial respon­si­ble for automat­ing much of the NSA’s world­wide mon­i­tor­ing net­works. Trou­bled by the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al nature of tap­ping into the vast domes­tic com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem with­out a war­rant, he decid­ed to quit the agency in late 2001 after near­ly forty years.

    Gunn, said Bin­ney, was a Scots­man and nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen who had for­mer­ly worked for GCHQ, Britain’s equiv­a­lent of the NSA, and lat­er become a senior ana­lyst at the NSA. The NSA declined Wired’s request to inter­view Gunn, say­ing that, as pol­i­cy, it doesn’t con­firm or deny if a per­son is employed by the agency.

    Short­ly after the secret meet­ing, the racks of Dell servers were moved to a room down the hall, behind a door with a red seal indi­cat­ing only those spe­cial­ly cleared for the high­ly com­part­ment­ed project could enter. But rather than hav­ing NSA employ­ees putting the hard­ware and soft­ware togeth­er and set­ting up walls of mon­i­tors show­ing sus­pect­ed ter­ror­ism threats and their U.S. com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the spy­ing room was filled with a half-dozen employ­ees of a tiny mom-and-pop com­pa­ny with a bizarre and trou­bling his­to­ry.

    “It was Tech­nol­o­gy Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion,” said Bin­ney.

    The agency went to TDC, he says, because the com­pa­ny had helped him set up a sim­i­lar net­work in SARC — albeit one that was focused on for­eign and inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions — the kind of spy­ing the NSA is char­tered to under­take.

    “They need­ed to have some­body who knew how the code works to set it up,” he said. “And then it was just a mat­ter of feed­ing in the attrib­ut­es [U.S. phone num­bers, e‑mail address­es and per­son­al data] and any of the con­tent you want.” Those “attrib­ut­es” came from secret rooms estab­lished in large tele­com switch­es around the coun­try. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Bin­ney says.

    Formed in April 1984, TDC was owned by two broth­ers, Ran­dall and Paul Jacob­son, and large­ly run out of Randall’s Clarkesville, Mary­land house, with his wife act­ing as book­keep­er. But its list­ed address is a post office box in Annapo­lis Junc­tion, across the Bal­ti­more-Wash­ing­ton Park­way from the NSA, and the company’s phone num­ber in var­i­ous busi­ness direc­to­ries is actu­al­ly an NSA num­ber in Binney’s old office.

    The company’s trou­bles began in June 1992 when Paul lost his secu­ri­ty clear­ance. “If you ever met this guy, you would know he’s a real­ly strange guy,” Bin­ney said of Paul. “He did crazy stuff. I think they thought he was unsta­ble.” At the time, Paul was work­ing on a con­tract at the NSA along­side a rival con­trac­tor, Unisys Cor­po­ra­tion. He lat­er blamed Unisys for his secu­ri­ty prob­lems and sued it, claim­ing that Unisys employ­ees com­plained about him to his NSA super­vi­sors. Accord­ing to the suit, Unisys employ­ees referred to him as “weird” and that he “act­ed like a robot,” “nev­er wore decent clothes,” and was men­tal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly unsta­ble. About that time, he also began chang­ing his name, first to Jim­my Carter, and lat­er to Alfred Olym­pus von Rons­dorf.


    Despite that dra­ma, Jacob­son and his peo­ple appeared to have seri­ous mis­giv­ings about the NSA’s pro­gram once they dis­cov­ered its true nature, accord­ing to Bin­ney. “They came and said, ‘Do you real­ize what these peo­ple are doing?’” he said. “‘They’re feed­ing us oth­er stuff [U.S.] in there.’ I mean they knew it was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al right away.” Bin­ney added that once the job was fin­ished, the NSA turned to still anoth­er con­trac­tor to run the tap­ping oper­a­tion. “They made it pret­ty well known, so after they got it up and run­ning they [the NSA] brought in the SAIC peo­ple to run it after that.” Jacob­sen was then shift­ed to oth­er work at the NSA, where he and his com­pa­ny are still employed.

    Ran­dall Jacob­sen answered his phone inside the NSA but asked for time to respond. He nev­er called back.

    In addi­tion to con­struct­ing the Stel­lar Wind cen­ter, and then run­ning the oper­a­tion, secre­tive con­trac­tors with ques­tion­able his­to­ries and lit­tle over­sight were also used to do the actu­al bug­ging of the entire U.S. telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work.

    Accord­ing to a for­mer Ver­i­zon employ­ee briefed on the pro­gram, Verint, owned by Com­verse Tech­nol­o­gy, taps the com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines at Ver­i­zon, which I first report­ed in my book The Shad­ow Fac­to­ry in 2008. Verint did not return a call seek­ing com­ment, while Ver­i­zon said it does not com­ment on such mat­ters.

    At AT&T the wire­tap­ping rooms are pow­ered by soft­ware and hard­ware from Narus, now owned by Boe­ing, a dis­cov­ery made by AT&T whistle­blow­er Mark Klein in 2004. Narus did not return a call seek­ing com­ment.

    What is espe­cial­ly trou­bling is that both com­pa­nies have had exten­sive ties to Israel, as well as links to that country’s intel­li­gence ser­vice, a coun­try with a long and aggres­sive his­to­ry of spy­ing on the U.S.

    In fact, accord­ing to Bin­ney, the advanced ana­lyt­i­cal and data min­ing soft­ware the NSA had devel­oped for both its world­wide and inter­na­tion­al eaves­drop­ping oper­a­tions was secret­ly passed to Israel by a mid-lev­el employ­ee, appar­ent­ly with close con­nec­tions to the coun­try. The employ­ee, a tech­ni­cal direc­tor in the Oper­a­tions Direc­torate, “who was a very strong sup­port­er of Israel,” said Bin­ney, “gave, unbe­knownst to us, he gave the soft­ware that we had, doing these fast rates, to the Israelis.”

    Because of his posi­tion, it was some­thing Bin­ney should have been alert­ed to, but wasn’t.

    “In addi­tion to being the tech­ni­cal direc­tor,” he said, “I was the chair of the TAP, it’s the Tech­ni­cal Advi­so­ry Pan­el, the for­eign rela­tions coun­cil. We’re sup­posed to know what all these for­eign coun­tries, tech­ni­cal­ly what they’re doing-. They didn’t do this that way, it was under the table.” After dis­cov­er­ing the secret trans­fer of the tech­nol­o­gy, Bin­ney argued that the agency sim­ply pass it to them offi­cial­ly, and in that way get some­thing in return, such as access to com­mu­ni­ca­tions ter­mi­nals. “So we gave it to them for switch­es,” he said. “For access.”


    When asked about these con­trac­tors, the NSA declined to “ver­i­fy the alle­ga­tions made.”

    But the NSA did “eager­ly offer” that it “ensures delib­er­ate and appro­pri­ate mea­sures are tak­en to thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gate and resolve any legit­i­mate com­plaints or alle­ga­tions of mis­con­duct or ille­gal activ­i­ty” and “takes seri­ous­ly its oblig­a­tion to adhere to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and com­ply with the U.S. laws and reg­u­la­tions that gov­ern our activ­i­ties.”

    The NSA also added that “we are proud of the work we do to pro­tect the nation, and alle­ga­tions imply­ing that there is inap­pro­pri­ate mon­i­tor­ing of Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ca­tions are a dis­ser­vice to the Amer­i­can pub­lic and to the NSA civil­ian and mil­i­tary per­son­nel who are ded­i­cat­ed to serv­ing their coun­try.”

    How­ev­er, that state­ment elides the volu­mi­nous report­ing by the New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post, USA Today, Los Ange­les Times and Wired on the NSA’s war­rant­less wire­tap­ping pro­gram. Also not reflect­ed is that in the only anti-war­rant­less wire­tap­ping law­suit to sur­vive the government’s use of the “state secrets” priv­i­lege to throw them out, a fed­er­al judge ruled that two Amer­i­can lawyers had been spied on ille­gal­ly by the gov­ern­ment and were enti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion.

    So take the NSA’s assur­ances as you will.

    But as NSA direc­tor Alexan­der flies around the coun­try, scis­sors in hand, open­ing one top-secret, out­sourced eaves­drop­ping cen­ter after anoth­er, some­one might want to ask the ques­tion no one in Con­gress seems will­ing to ask: Who’s lis­ten­ing to the lis­ten­ers?

    And if any UK read­ers were a lit­tle wor­ried about the US poach­ing your intel­li­gence offi­cers after read­ing that the guy head­ing one of the NSA’s new mass-spy­ing pro­grams is a for­mer mem­ber of GCHQ (the UK’s ana­log to the NSA), don’t wor­ry, you guys are doing just fine on the domes­tic spy­ing front.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2012, 7:37 pm
  2. [...] FTR #394 The Bat­tle of Men­with Hill: Sig­nals Intel­li­gence & the 9/11 Attacks This entry was post­ed in Intel­li­gence, Inter­net-Spy­ing-Secrets Doc­u­ments, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and tagged ECHELON, GCHQ, Men­with Hill Lis­ten­ing Sta­tion, NSA, RAF. Book­mark the perma­link. ← Daniel Laprès des Amis Québé­cois d’Israel com­mente la man­i­fes­ta­tion du PAJU, deux­ième épisode [...]

    Posted by WWII resumes as Germany/EU attacked the ECHELON network in 1998 | Lys-d'Or | April 17, 2012, 12:32 pm
  3. [...] rather right-wing orga­ni­za­tion, if not fas­cist in nature. In effect, they joined the attack on the Men­with Hill lis­ten­ing post in the U.K., an instal­la­tion that is cru­cial to North Amer­i­can and Unit­ed [...]

    Posted by Political Correctness: Another tool to subvert western societies | Lys-d'Or | April 22, 2012, 2:50 pm

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