The US is to station hundreds more NSA staff in the UK's spying base in Menwith Hill, Yorkshire, the Sunday Times reported yesterday.
Those involved are being transferred from Germany following the closure of its spying base in Bad Aibling in the south of the country. Germans had protested heavily about the US intercepting personal communications including emails, phone and data calls and so a secret deal was reached last year where the UK government agreed to let the operation move wholesale to England.
The UK government had hoped the move would go unnoticed.
The decision to allow yet more Americans to spy on European communications has angered civil rights campaigners and comes soon after the European parliament criticised the Echelon project. Its report advised people to encrypt their emails in a bid to restrict the States' prying on personal and commercially sensitive matters.
Ironically, the MoD has just announced that it is "highly likely" to adopt Pretty Good
Privacy (PGP) email encryption for sending documents over the Internet. They'll be using a customised version of Network Associates PGP Security, called PGP HMG (Her Majesty's Government).
The decision to allow more US staff spy in the UK has also strengthened criticism against Tony Blair and the MoD for pandering to Washington. The NSA employees will arrive between March and September next year.
There is still no official line on where the UK stands with regard to George W Bush's national missile defence (NMD) shield, and an MoD spokesman told the Sunday Times that additions to Menwith were not part of the NMD programme. The MoD always tells the truth of course.
We have also been sent an interesting email from researcher Francisco Javier Bernal, who draws attention to various NSA patents on spying and filtering software. Here's a link to Mr Bernal's extensive work on Echelon with a multitude of links at the bottom.
Echelon isn't a threat - but scramble your emails anyway
Euro Parliament calls Echelon a paper tiger
An Outlook worm to jam NSA's Echelon
CIA patching Echelon shortcomings
French Echelon report says Europe should lock out US snoops
Euro Parliament to investigate Echelon