Re: US' NSA monitors all e-mail, telephone and FAXes in Europe

Michael Lorrey (
Sat, 31 Jan 1998 18:35:26 -0500

Dan Clemmensen wrote:

> Harvey Newstrom wrote:
> [SNIP]
> > [quoting someone]
> > A draft ("consultation version") of a report by the European Parliament's
> > Office for Scientific and Technological Option Assessment (STOA) entitled
> > the EuroParl's Civil Liberties and Interior Committee. Several IT-relevant
> > excerpts are now available at John Young's widely respected crypto-politics
> > website: <<>
> >
> > "[...] Within Europe, all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are
> > routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency,
> > transferring all target information from the European mainland via the
> > strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the
> > crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York Moors of the UK."
> >
> This causes my bullshit alarm to ring loudly.
> 1)The bandwidth of "all e-mail, telephone and fax communications" in Europe
> would be quite high--higher than any feasible satellite channel.
> 2) Where are the signals intercepted by NSA? nearly all are land-line
> only, with no radio component, so physical taps would be necessary. This would
> certainly require colusion of the European PTTs, which are mostly run by
> European governments. Why would they permit NSA to do this?
> 3) With serious compression, a phone call can be squeezed to an average of
> perhaps 500bytes/sec. There are probably an average of at least one million
> simulatneous phone calls in europe at any time. This is 500 megabytes (4 gigabits)
> per second, requiring 43.2 terabytes of storage per day. the compression would
> require roughly one million very competent DSPs. automatic keyword recognition
> equipment would require at least an additional 2 miooion DSPs.
> I might believe that NSA attempts to intercept as much military microwave voice
> as they possibly can in Russia, and that they used to do a lot more of that in
> eastern Europe, but modern commercial landlines are a different story entirely.

>From what I saw in the story, they have some sort of filter that automatically tags
traffic that can be classified as 'target information' that only mentions, say,
certain technologies, or certain groups, or activities, like attacking political
figures, etc.. Having a number of these sort of filter taps in main switching
centers, with forwarding to the mentioned center in England for transmission to the US
is entirely within the known current capability of the NSA. It is already used by US
based law enforcement when the appropriate court orders are issued, and generally for
such threats as that to the president's life. For example, my typing here the phrase
(NOTE TO THE NSA: this is a test, not a real threat) 'kill the president' will set
off certain triggers in the filters that oversee email traffic. Currently here in the
US, this is done via the FCC. Those of you using Netscape 3.02 will notice when you
send email messages that in the bottom bar of the mail window there will be displayed
a message of the current status of transmission. If you are fast, and you have a
particularly slow computer, you'll notice that a message will flash quickly saying
that your message was posted to the FCC. From what I've seen, the message duplications
go to the FCC for a filtering. Those that contain no 'target information' are tossed.
SInce only messages containing 'target information' is saved, the actual archiving
requirements are far far less than thought by the previous poster, and this operation
could be managed by a few good Alpha servers, maybe a Cray or two.

   Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------ Inventor of the Lorrey Drive
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering
How many fnords did you see before breakfast today?