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Signals Intelligence Programs and Activities

Russia continues to maintain one of the most sophisticated SIGINT programs in the world. The GRU's Sixth Directorate uses over 20 different types of aircraft, a fleet of 60 SIGINT collection vessels, satellites, and ground stations to collect signals intelligence. Together with FAPSI, the GRU operates SIG1NT collection facilities in over 60 diplomatically protected facilities throughout the world. These agencies also operate large ground collection facilities within the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States, at Cam Rank Bay, Vietnam, and at Lourdes, Cuba. These activities provide the Russians with worldwide SIG[NT collection capabilities.

The SIGINT facility at Lourdes is among the most significant intelligence collection capabilities targeting the United States. This facility, less than 100 miles from Key West, is one of the largest and most sophisticated SIGINT collection facilities in the world. It is jointly operated by the GRU, FAPSI, and Cuba's intelligence services. The complex is manned by over 1,000 Russian personnel and is capable of monitoring a wide array of commercial and government communications throughout the southeastern United States, and between the United States and Europe. Lourdes intercepts transmissions from microwave towers in the United States, communication satellite downlinks, and a wide range of shortwave and high-frequency radio transmissions. It also serves as a mission ground station and analytical facility supporting Russian SIGINT satellites. The facility at Lourdes, together with a sister facility in Russia, allows the Russians to monitor all U. S. military and civilian geosynchronous communications satellites.[17] It has been alleged that the Lourdes facility monitors all White House communications activities, launch control communications and telemetry from NASA and Air Force facilities at Cape Canaveral, financial and commodity wire services, and military communications links. According to one source, Lourdes has a special collection and analysis facility that is responsible for targeting financial and political information. This activity is manned by specially selected personnel and appears to be highly successful in providing Russian leaders with political and economic intelligence.

The former Soviet Union also used a variety of other means to collect signals intelligence. The Soviets operated SIGINT collection sites in over 60 countries from diplomatically protected embassies, consulates, trade legations, and residences. It is possible that these activities are continuing in the United States. The location of a number of Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States would provide Russian SIGINT collectors with access to sensitive information. Russian collection activities could derive sensitive information on Government policies from monitoring Government activities in the Washington, DC area, and sensitive financial and trade information using Russian facilities located in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. The location of microwave towers and cellular communication repeaters in the vicinity of Russian diplomatic facilities in these cities increases the potential damage from collection activities. In the past, vans from the Soviet Mission to the United Nations were observed in the vicinity of the GE Americom satellite ground station in Vernon Valley, NJ, and vans from the San Francisco consulate were observed in the vicinity of AT&T microwave towers in Northern California. In both cases, the vans appeared to be conducting SIG1NT monitoring at these facilities.

The Russians have probably also continued the Soviet practice of using covert mobile collection platforms. During the Cold War, the Russians frequently used tractor-trailers, and other vehicles with concealed SIGINT collection equipment to gather intelligence in Western Europe. Western intelligence officials estimate that the Soviets conducted over 7,000 covert vehicular SIGINT operations in NATO countries annually. During these operations, the Soviets gathered electronic order of battle (EOB) data, monitored exercise communications, conducted direction finding operations, and calibrated Soviet SIGINT satellites to determine geolocation accuracies. The Soviets also allegedly used clandestine collection vans located in Mexico to monitor activities at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Vans operating from Tijuana, Mexico reportedly were able to monitor all of Southern California and Western Arizona. There have also been reports that Aeroflot aircraft and clandestine collection vehicles have been used to collect SIGINT data inside the continental United States.

The Russians also use satellites for collecting SIGINT. The first Soviet SIGINT satellite was the Cosmos 189 ELINT satellite, which was launched in 1967. Over the next 24 years, the Soviets placed over 200 SIGINT satellites into orbit. The Russians continue to maintain a robust presence in space. During 1994, the Russians conducted 48 spacecraft launches, 50 percent of which were military missions including advanced imagery systems, ocean reconnaissance, and electronic intelligence collection. In 1995, the Russians have programmed 45 space launches; again approximately 50 percent will be military missions.

The GRU is tasked with operating Russian ELINT satellites. ELINT satellites use active and passive techniques to detect specific targets. They complement the data provided by imaging satellites and assist in developing a more complete picture of an adversary's forces or intentions. These satellites are designed to track and geolocate radio and radar emanations of ships at sea, mobile air defense radars, fixed strategic early warning radars, and other military emitters for the purpose of identification, location, and signals analysis. The data can then be used for targeting, offensive and defensive engagement planning, and countermeasure development.

Collection activities are managed by the Cosmic Intelligence Directorate, and data analysis is performed by the Decrypting Service of the Sixth Directorate. Currently, there is no evidence of the existence of a Russian COMINT satellite, however, it is likely that the Russians could develop such a system if they wished.



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Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997 5:56:23 PM