The National Security Agency's Echelon Network surveillance “towers,” known to the world’s intelligence elite as “radomes”—secret interception facilities, function like a giant celestial net, capturing billions of telephone conversations, e-mails, Internet downloads, satellite transmissions, and faxes.
The messages culled each day are searched by supercomputers housed at the Fort Meade Army compound near Chesapeake Bay, where they are scanned by electronic “dictionaries” that capture key words that have been programmed for top-secret review and action. These millions of messages are read in real time as they pour into the station, hour after hour, day after day, the computers searching for intelligence needles in the electronic haystack.
With the increasing intensity of global USA and British electronic and satellite surveillance of al Qaeda, the leadership of the global terrorist groups have gone "dark," an unintended consequence of successful surveillance by NSA and other intelligence sources. Terrorists have switched from using satellite phones and email to employing centuries-old hand-delivered messenger networks, cutouts at Internet cafes, and a vast network of honey stores that have existed throughout the Islamic world since biblical times to generate income and secretly move weapons, drugs, and agents.