Original 'Echelon' secret UK-US spookery treaty published
Plus old 1940s intercepts: US stuff out this arvo
Old news in the world of surveillance and spookery today, as the original 1946 secret treaty between the UK and US which set up the famous "Echelon" listening system is finally published.
The UKUSA agreement, drafted to formalise intel-sharing arrangements which had developed during World War II, formed the basis for the US-British (and later, other nations) partnership against the Warsaw Pact through the Cold War.
The treaty dealt primarily with communications intercept information, known as signals intelligence or "sigint". Back in the early days of UKUSA cooperation, many long-distance or international phone calls were carried by longhaul HF radio, and were comparatively easily intercepted by a worldwide network of listening posts.
Later on, it is widely believed, the allied Echelon capabilities - by now mostly being provided by the US, with useful access being supplied by Britain and other nations - became able to monitor huge numbers of calls automatically, with chosen key words or phrases flagging up a given conversation for investigation by human operators.
Now released along with the Treaty itself are some intercept products garnered up to the year 1949. The cooperative publication of British files from GCHQ and other organisations has already occurred courtesy of the National Archives, here. The American end of the publications will go live on the NSA website at 3pm UK time today. ®
Setting aside your obvious mistake of the nationality of those archives, I'd like to introduce you to an amazing technology that we have now. It allows the conversion of data from chemically-treated woodpulp storage to electronically-treated silicon and magnetically-treated ceramics (and sometimes even laser-etched chemically-treated plastics) -- the upshot of which is that Dick Cheney can stuff as much paper in his pants as he wants, and the documents remain available.
National archives of both countries involved in this particular article use this technology, and indeed, you could have seen the results of it by simply following the link provided.
I think you are confusing Samuel "Sandy" Berger with Dick Cheney.
SIGINT vs COMINT
SIGINT, or signals intelligence, is generally taken to refer to the "externals," such as technical details like who it's sent to, who it's from, what technology the signal is using, etc. It's used to build up patterns of behavior.
COMINT, or communications intelligence, is generally taken to refer to the "internals," meaning the content of the messages. I think you are probably referring to COMINT in the article.
You can see the American NSA's own definition of SIGINT on its website at http://www.nsa.gov/sigint/index.shtml. Note that it conveniently does not include analysis of the contents of a message.