ECHELON was reportedly first planned with the establishment of the national security state in 1947 and codified in a treaty signed by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“Until Snowden placed the full capacities of the NSA and other government spying agencies in plain sight, ECHELON was largely just another codename in the conspiracy-theorist’s notebook,” writes Lucas Matney for TechCrunch.
In 1988 the British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell wrote an article titled “Somebody’s listening” for the Statesman that revealed the existence ECHELON.
The massive and indiscriminate surveillance program was later confirmed during an investigation conducted by the the European Parliament and also by the author James Bamford in his books on the NSA.
“In December 2014, I asked fellow Scottish journalist and Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher to check Snowden’s documents. Was there evidence of ECHELON?” Campbell writes for The Intercept.
Campbell discovered a number of NSA and GCHQ (the British Government Communications Headquarters) documents confirming what a whistleblower discovered 27 years previously.
“In 1966, NSA established the FROSTING program, an umbrella program for the collection and processing of all communications emanating from communication satellites,” a January 2011 newsletter published by the NSA’s Yakima Research Station states. “FROSTING’s two sub-programs were TRANSIENT, for all efforts against Soviet satellite targets, and ECHELON, for the collection and processing of INTELSAT communications.”
The NSA published a report in its “SID Today” newsletter that also confirmed there is indeed an ECHELON surveillance system.
“Even today, neither GCHQ nor NSA will comment on ECHELON or other specific issues raised in the Snowden documents,” Campbell writes.
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