nov 262013
 

During the Cold War there were hundreds of secret remote listening posts spread around the globe. From large stations in the moors of Scotland and mountains of Turkey that were complete with golf balllike structures called “radomes” to singly operated stations in the barren wilderness of Saint Lawrence Island between Alaska and Siberia that had only a few antennae, these stations constituted the ground-based portion of the United States Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) System or “USSS.”

Operated by the supersecret National Security Agency (NSA), these stations were designed to intercept Morse Code, telephone, telex, radar, telemetry, and other signals emanating from behind the Iron Curtain. At one time, the NSA contemplated a worldwide, continuously operated array of 4120 intercept stations. While the agency never achieved that goal, it could still boast of several hundred intercept stations. These included its ground-based “outstations,” which were supplemented by other intercept units located on ships, submarines, aircraft (from U-2s to helicopters), unmanned drones, mobile vans, aerostats (balloons and dirigibles), and even large and cumbersome backpacks.

With the collapse of the Communist “bloc” and the advent of microwaves, fiber optics, and cellular phones, NSA’s need for numerous ground-based intercept stations waned. It began to rely on a constellation of sophisticated SIGINT satellites with code names like Vortex, Magnum, Jumpseat, and Trumpet to sweep up the world’s satellite, microwave, cellular, and high-frequency communications and signals. Numerous outstations met with one of three fates: they were shut down completely, remoted to larger facilities called Regional SIGINT Operations Centers or “RSOCs,” or were turned over to host nation SIGINT agencies to be operated jointly with NSA.

However, NSA’s jump to relying primarily on satellites proved premature. In 1993, Somali clan leader Mohammed Farah Aideed taught the agency an important lesson. Aideed’s reliance on older and lower-powered walkie-talkies and radio transmitters made his communications virtually silent to the orbiting SIGINT “birds” of the NSA. Therefore, NSA technicians came to realize there was still a need to get in close in some situations to pick up signals of interest. In NSA’s jargon this is called improving “hearability.”

As NSA outstations were closed or remoted, new and relatively smaller intercept facilities such as the “gateway” facility in Bahrain, reportedly used for retransmit signals intercepted in Baghdad last year to the U.S. sprang up around the world. In addition to providing NSA operators with fresh and exotic duty stations, the new stations reflected an enhanced mission for NSA economic intelligence gathering. Scrapping its old Cold War A and B Group SIGINT organization, NSA expanded the functions of its W Group to include SIGINT operations against a multitude of targets. Another unit, M Group, would handle intercepts from new technologies like the Internet.

Many people who follow the exploits of SIGINT and NSA are eager to peruse lists of secret listening posts operated by the agency and its partners around the world. While a master list probably exists somewhere in the impenetrable lair that is the NSA’s Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, it is assuredly stamped with one of the highest security classifications in the U.S. intelligence community.  W.M. & J.V.

The United States SIGINT System (USSS)

The following list is the best unclassified shot at describing the locations of the ground-based “ears” of the Puzzle Palace. It is culled from press accounts, informed experts, and books written about the NSA and its intelligence partners. It does not include the numerous listening units on naval vessels and aircraft nor those operating from U.S. and foreign embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions.

United States

NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland
Buckley Air National Guard Ground Base, Colorado
Fort Gordon, Georgia (RSOC)
Imperial Beach, California
Kunia, Hawaii (RSOC)
Northwest, Virginia
Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico
San Antonio, Texas (RSOC)
Shemya, Alaska -3
Sugar Grove, West Virginia
Winter Harbor, Maine
Yakima, Washington

Albania

Durres -6
Shkoder -6
Tirana -6

Ascension Island

Two Boats -1

Australia

Bamaga -6 -7
Cabarlah -7
Canberra (Defense Signals Directorate Headquarters) -5
Harman -7
Kojarena, Geraldton -1
Nurunggar -1
Pearce -1
Pine Gap, Alice Springs -1
Riverina -7
Shoal Bay, Darwin -1
Watsonia -1

Austria

Konigswarte -7
Neulengbach -7

Bahrain

Al-Muharraq Airport -3
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tuzla

Botswana

Mapharangwane Air Base

British Indian Ocean Territory

Diego Garcia -1

Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan -7

Canada

Alert -7
Gander -7
Leitrim -1
Masset -6 -7
Ottawa [Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Headquarters] -5

China

Korla -1 -6
Qitai -1 -6

Croatia

Brac� Island, Croatia -6
Zagreb-Lucko Airport -7

Cuba

Guantanamo Bay

Cyprus

Ayios Nikolaos -1

Denmark

Aflandshage -7
Almindingen, Bornholm -7
Dueodde, Bornholm -7
Gedser -7
Hj�rring -7
L�gumkl�ster -7

Eritrea

Dahlak Island -1 (NSA/Israel “8200” site)

Estonia

Tallinn -7

Ethiopia

Addis Ababa -1

Finland

Santahamina -7

French Guiana

Kourou -7 (German Federal Intelligence Service station)

Germany

Achern -7
Ahrweiler -7
Bad Aibling -2
Bad M�nstereifel -7
Braunschweig -7
Darmstadt -7
Frankfurt -7
Hof -7
Husum -7
Mainz -7
Monschau -7
Pullach (German Federal Intelligence Service Headquarters) -5
Rheinhausen -7
Stockdorf -7
Strassburg -7
Vogelweh, Germany

Gibraltar

Gibraltar -7

Greece

Ir�klion, Crete

Guam

Finegayan

Hong Kong

British Consulate, Victoria (“The Alamo”) -7

Iceland

Keflavik -3

India

Charbatia -7

Israel

Herzliyya (Unit 8200 Headquarters) -5
Mitzpah Ramon -7
Mount Hermon, Golan Heights -7
Mount Meiron, Golan Heights -7

Italy

San Vito -6
Sorico

Japan

Futenma, Okinawa
Hanza, Okinawa
Higashi Chitose -7
Higashi Nemuro -7
Kofunato -7
Miho -7
Misawa
Nemuro -7
Ohi -7
Rebunto -7
Shiraho -7
Tachiarai -7
Wakkanai

Korea (South)

Kanghwa-do Island -7
Osan -1
Pyong-dong Island -7
P’yongt’aek -1
Taegu -1 -2 -6
Tongduchon -1
Uijo�ngbu -1
Yongsan -1

Kuwait

Kuwait

Latvia

Ventspils -7

Lithuania

Vilnius -7

Netherlands

Amsterdam (Technical Intelligence Analysis Center (TIVC) Headquarters)-5
Emnes -7
Terschelling -7

New Zealand

Tangimoana -7
Waihopai -1
Wellington (Government Communications Security Bureau Headquarters -5

Norway

Borhaug -7
Fauske/Vetan -7
Jessheim -7
Kirkenes -1
Randaberg -7
Skage/Namdalen -7
Vads� -7
Vard� -7
Viksjofellet -7

Oman

Abut -1
Goat Island, Musandam Peninsula -3
Khasab, Musandam Peninsula -3
Masirah Island -3

Pakistan

Parachinar

Panama

Galeta Island -3

Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby -7

Portugal

Terceira Island, Azores

Rwanda

Kigali

S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe

Pinheiro

Saudi Arabia

Araz -7
Khafji -7

Singapore

Kranji -7

Spain

Pico de las Nieves, Grand Canary Island -7
Manzanares -7
Playa de Pals -3
Rota

Solomon Islands

Honiara -7

Sri Lanka

Iranawilla

Sweden

Karlskrona -7
Lov�n (Swedish FRA Headquarters) -7
Musk� -7

Switzerland

Merishausen -7
R�thi -7

Taiwan:

Quemoy -7
Matsu -7
Shu Lin Kuo -5 (German Federal Intelligence Service/NSA/Taiwan J-3 SIGINT service site)

Turkey

Adana
Agri -7
Antalya -7
Diyarbakir
Edirne -7
Istanbul -7
Izmir -7
Kars
Sinop -7

Thailand

Aranyaprathet -7
Khon Kaen -1 -3
Surin -7
Trat -7

Uganda

Kabale
Galangala Island, Ssese Islands (Lake Victoria)

United Arab Emirates

Az-Zarqa� -3
Dalma� -3
Ras al-Khaimah -3
Sir Abu Nuayr Island -3

United Kingdom:

Belfast (Victoria Square) -7
Brora, Scotland -7
Cheltenham (Government Communications Headquarters) -5
Chicksands -7
Culm Head -7
Digby -7
Hawklaw, Scotland -7
Irton Moor -7
Menwith Hill, Harrogate -1 (RSOC)
Molesworth -1
Morwenstow -1
Westminster, London -7
(Palmer Street)
Yemen
Socotra Island (planned)

KEY:

-1 Joint facility operated with a SIGINT partner.

-2 Joint facility partially operated with a SIGINT partner.

-3 Contractor-operated facility.

-4 Remoted facility.

-5 NSA liaison is present.

-6 Joint NSA-CIA site.

-7 Foreign-operated “accommodation site” that provides occasional SIGINT product to the USSS.

February 24 – March 2, 1999
by
jason vest and wayne madsen A Most Unusual Collection Agency

Find this story at February March 1999

Copyright 1999 The Village Voice – all rights reserved.