Thursday, May 28, 2015

Torus antennas increase collection of satellite communications



It doesn't have much direct connection to CSE, but some research I've been involved with on the Five Eyes agencies' growing ability to monitor satellite communications has just been published by the Nautilus Institute:

Desmond Ball, Duncan Campbell, Bill Robinson and Richard Tanter, "Expanded Communications Satellite Surveillance and Intelligence Activities Utilising Multi-beam Antenna Systems", NAPSNet Special Reports, Nautilus Institute, 28 May 2015.
The recent expansion of FORNSAT/COMSAT (foreign satellite/communications satellite) interception by the UKUSA or Five Eyes (FVEY) partners has involved the installation over the past eight years of multiple advanced quasi-parabolic multi-beam antennas, known as Torus, each of which can intercept up to 35 satellite communications beams. Material released by Edward Snowden identifies a ‘New Collection Posture’, known as ‘Collect-it-all’, an increasingly comprehensive approach to SIGINT collection from communications satellites by the NSA and its partners. There are about 232 antennas available at identified current Five Eyes FORNSAT/COMSAT sites, about 100 more antennas than in 2000. We conclude that development work at the observed Five Eyes FORNSAT/ COMSAT sites since 2000 has more than doubled coverage, and that adding Torus has more than trebled potential coverage of global commercial satellites. The report also discusses Torus antennas operating in Russia and Ukraine, and other U.S. Torus antennas.
The full report is available here.

One of my co-authors, Duncan Campbell, also has a companion piece in the online version of WIRED UK: ""Torus": has one word in a Snowden leak revealed a huge expansion in surveillance?" WIRED UK, 28 May 2015.

This article just published by The Intercept (Peter Maass, "Inside NSA, Officials Privately Criticize “Collect It All” Surveillance," The Intercept, 28 May 2015) on the perils of collecting too much data makes timely related reading.

Also on that wider topic, I would highly recommend Taylor Owen's recent article in Foreign Affairs ("The Violence of Algorithms:
Why Big Data Is Only as Smart as Those Who Generate It
," Foreign Affairs, 25 May 2015).


Update 4 June 2014:

News coverage in Oz:

- Philip Dorling, "Pine Gap’s new spy role revealed," The Age, 31 May 2015.
- Michael Gorey, "Secret life of Pine Gap gets airing," Herald Sun, 1 June 2015.
- Erwin Chlanda, "Pine Gap shines in global snooping: report," Alice Springs News Online, 2 June 2015.

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