Title: Back in Time: the ECHELON Story

Release Date: 2015-08-03

Document Date: 2012-11-09

Description: This 9 November 2012 post from the internal NSA newsletter Foreign Affairs Digest describes the agency’s reaction to the launch of the 2000 EU inquiry into ECHELON: see the Intercept article GCHQ and Me: My Life Unmasking British Eavesdroppers, 3 August 2015.

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(U) Back in Time: The ECHELON Story

FROM:

Foreign Affairs Directorate Special Advisor (DP09)
Run Date: 07/19/2005

ECHELON, a system targeting communications satellites, caught the ire of
Europeans several years ago... (S//SI)

(C//SI) The ECHELON story... revisited. It's worth a reminder that NSA's foreign
SIGINT relationships are not far removed from the public spotlight. ECHELON is
the most vivid example of this fact, although events post-9/1l have overtaken the
spotlight and the ECHELON story rarely makes the news these days. Could it be
that the European nations that previously made the claims about ECHELON and
industrial espionage have come to realize that, yes, there is an ECHELON system,
but rather than conducting alleged industrial espionage, it is a vital contributor to
the global war on terror?

(C) Undoubtedly the most prominent moment in the ECHELON saga was the
Summer of 2000 when the European Parliament appointed a 36-member ad hoc
committee to spend a year investigating ECHELON. As the media spotlight
brightened, a series of events occurred which help tell the story. These included a
visit to the US by members of the EU Commission, during which the members
declared their intention to come to NSA to get ground truth. While the visit to NSA
did not take place, the members were directed to our congressional oversight
committees who reaffirmed with emphasis that NSA operates within all the rules
and laws, and with full congressional oversight.

(C) Corporate NSA (FAD, SID, OGC, PAO, and Policy) ensured that our interests,
and our SIGINT partners' interests, were protected throughout the ordeal; and
ironically, the final report of the EU Commission reflected not only that NSA played
by the rules, with congressional oversight, but that those characteristics were
lacking when the Commission applied its investigatory criteria to other European
nations. In the final analysis, the "pig rule" applied when dealing with this tacky
matter: "Don't wrestle in the mud with the pigs. They like it, and you both get
dirty."

(U) The extensive story of ECHELON will be part of the forthcoming history
initiative.

(U//FOUO) This article is reprinted from the Foreign Affairs Digest, June edition.

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