The strongest alliance within the UKUSA relationship is the one between the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The most important facility in the alliance is Menwith Hill, in the north of England. With two dozen radomes and a vast computer operations facility, the base has the capacity to eavesdrop on vast chunks of the communications spectrum. With the creation of Intelsat and digital telecommunications, Menwith and other stations developed the capability to eavesdrop on an extensive scale on fax, telex and voice messages. It is widely believed that Menwith Hill has around 40,000 lines connected to it, through which access could be gained to much of European and Soviet communications.
A report published in late 1997 by the European Parliament has confirmed that "Project Echelon" gives the NSA the ability to search nearly all data communications for "key words." Messages are not currently analysed for overall content, nor is the scanning done in real time, but daily reports provide "precursor" data which assists intelligence agencies determine targets. Automatic scanning of voice communications may not be far behind. A voice recognition system called "Oratory" has been used for some years to intercept and analyse diplomatic phone calls. The report -- "Assessing the Technologies of Political Control" -- states, "Within Europe all email telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York moors in the UK." The report sparked a wave of concern in Europe which led on September 14, 1998, to a debate in the European Parliament. A "compromise resolution" framed that day by the four major parties called for greater accountability and "protective measures" over the activities of security agencies.