|Magazine Says U.S. Runs Spy Operation in Europe|
London, July 17 (AP) The weekly New Statesman reported today that the U.S. National Security Agency is running a major "big ear" spying operation on government, corporation and individual telephone and telex lines throughout Europe from a secret telecommunications center in northern England.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials, but both the British Defense Ministry and the Post Office denied the article, saying the facility in question is a "relay communications center for United States forces in Europe, its main purpose being rapid and secure communications."
Journalists Duncan Campbell and Linda Melvern named the closely guarded 562-acre Menwith Hill base in Yorkshire County 170 miles (280 kilometers) north of London.
800 EmployeesThey said the center, run in close partnership with the British Post Office, is the largest and most secret civilian listening post maintained by the NSA outside the United States. "Unless the KGB [Soviet security police] has something even bigger, [it] appears to be the biggest tapping center in the world."
The magazine said that more than 800 employees at the center work round the clock "sifting the communications of private citizens, corporations and governments for information of political or economic value to the U.S. intelligence community."
"From its heavily guarded operations room a special high capacity cable runs underground to the Post Office microwave tower at Hunters Stones five miles away: this provides an umbilical link into the international telephone and telex system running throughout Britain. A direct tap which is placed on lines to France and elsewhere in Europe has been in operation for more than 15 years.
Among unnamed sources the magazine quoted were:
- An ex-NSA analyst who said he had seen a document giving the base authority for tapping the telephone lines to Europe.
- A high-ranking intelligence consultant still working for the U.S. intelligence community.
- A former British military officer who had visited the center, which he said housed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of computer, communications and satellite tracking equipment.
Earlier ReportMr. Campbell's earlier allegations in the New Statesman that Britain is running its own widespread internal eavesdropping operaiton embarrassed the government last February.
He reported at that time that the British secret service and police use a phone tapping and bugging operation codenamed "Tinkerbell" to spy on embassies, even friendly ones like the United States, and thousands of diplomats, lawmakers and strike organizers.
The government denied charges that eavesdropping has grown so extensive in Britain that it is beyond government control and a threat to civil liberties. But shortly afterwards it appointed a senior judge to act as watchdog on telephone tapping.
This report appeared in the International Herald Tribune, 18 July 1980.
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