The largest electronic English-speaking spy network in history. It is run jointly by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Its function is to “capture” suspicious emails, faxes, and telephone calls from around the globe, with each country having its own jurisdiction and set of priorities. The countries have jointly deployed electronic-intercept stations and satellites to intercept an immense number of microwave, radio, satellite, and cellular and fiber-optic communications traffic. The captured signals are then processed by super-computers (known as “dictionaries”) programmed to search every communication for targeted addresses, phrases, words, and voices. ECHELON has an estimated interception rate of about three billion communications daily. The members of this alliance are also members of the UKUSA intelligence alliance that has been in operation to collect and share intelligence since World War I.
As noted, each country has been assigned a particular jurisdiction. For example, Canada’s main focus is the monitoring of the northern regions of the old Soviet Union; the United States’s main focus is monitoring Asia (including Russia and northern China) and most of Latin America; Britain’s main focus is monitoring Europe (including the European part of Russia and Africa); Australia’s main focus is monitoring Indochina, Indonesia, and southern China; and New Zealand’s main focus is monitoring the western Pacific.
The United States is thought to dominate the UKUSA alliance. The U.S. National Security Agency, for example, is located in Maryland and has a staff number exceeding 38,000 and a budget exceeding $3.6 billion. To put this number in context, this budget exceeds that of both the FBI and the CIA combined.
GNU_FDL. ECHELON. [Online, 2004.] GNU Free Distribution License Website. http://www.worldhistory.com/wiki/E/Echelon.htm.