ECHELON is a name used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UK–USA Security Agreement (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as AUSCANNZUKUS or Five Eyes). It has also been described as the only software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications.

Is there evidence of Echelon existence?

  • 2
    There is enough evidence that, in security circles, there is literally no doubt that the US government spies on its residents' phone calls, text messages, and emails - in fact, I believe they have even admitted as much. However, they have never admitted the existence of Echelon, though according to Leo Laporte on a recent episode of Security Now, the MI6 (British intelligence) has admitted that Echelon exists, and that they use it. Mar 21 '12 at 20:59

There is a official report from Europe parliament about the existence of echelon:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/tempcom/echelon/pdf/rapport_echelon_en.pdf (11 July 2001)

'Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes.' Juvenal (ca. 60 to 130 AD), Sat. 6, 347

And there are also a lot of articles in German newspapers about this. For example:

For a long time the U.S. had denied the existence of Echelon. Officially, the issue is being debated only been just over a year. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, had at that time the existence of economic espionage system confirmed. Compared to Europe economic espionage will operate to protect the competitive chances of the U.S. economy over European competitors.

[Ed: is this a better link? It is for me.]

The cited article (dated 16/01/2002) says that Echelon became topical again post-9/11.

Says that the NSA uses Echelon to get information used by spies to steal industrial secrets from Germany, etc. etc.


From the Wikipedia link you gave:

In a report published in 2001, the European Parliament stated that the term ECHELON is used in a number of contexts, but that the evidence presented indicates that it was the name for a signals intelligence collection system. The report concludes that, on the basis of information presented, ECHELON was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (which once carried most Internet traffic) and microwave links.

Also, NSA Watch has collated a wide range of Echelon evidence, however you'd need to decide for yourself whether or not you trust NSA Watch more than Wikipedia.

ZDNet provided an article on Echelon, but it is more speculative than evidence.

Cyber-rights.org has probably the best link to Echelon data I can find.

I'd be pretty confident that a lot of the evidence will not make it to the public eye, as it is likely to be quite sensitive around intel sources, so we may need to take the European Parliament's word that the evidence does suggest it exists (or existed)

  • 1
    I think that if the OP doubts wikipedia, we need to provide stronger references.
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 7 '12 at 21:10
  • Was hunting for a wikileaks one, to no avail - how about these new ones?
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 7 '12 at 21:26
  • 1
    There are budget reports on Echelon. I found some for my book research. This link has a summary: spywriter.com/robots/echelon.html I think the wiki had the budget reports linked. Mar 11 '12 at 4:47

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