Pentagon officials tell us China is engaged in massive electronic eavesdropping through a series of ground stations, many in western China. Some stations can now be viewedwithouta security clearance for the first time from high-resolution satellite photographs recently made available on Google Earth.
The officials said Chinese military and civilian intelligence units operate several key facilities in western China that are collecting hundreds of thousands of e-mails, among other electronic signals, that transit cyberspace through satellites. Using large dish antennas, the signals intelligence sites take the data and filter it using high-speed computers and commercial software obtained from U.S. companies.
By putting in key words, the Chinese eavesdroppers can gain valuable intelligence for both their military andcommercialprograms,the officials said.
One facility is locatednearChangi in northwestern China, which we first identified in this column in 2000 as it was being expanded with the addition of new satellite dishes. The Changi listening post is operated by the military intelligence unit known as the 3rd Department, 12th Bureau. It spiesonforeign satellites and is thought to be part of China’s antisatellite program. A second major facility is located at Shule.
AthirdChinese electronic spying facility at Kashi was able to predict the start of the U.S. ground war in Iraqin1991 five daysbefore it began by intercepting Saudi Arabian military communications, intelligence officials said.
Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Talent-Keyhole.com, said the Chinese eavesdropping sites gather vast amounts of data transiting from Europe to Asia.
“They’ve got enough of a capability to selectively scoop up on a very narrow set of targets,” Mr. Brown said, noting that the information is useful for economic espionage as well as military communications traffic analysis.