Jane’s Defence Weekly
January 24, 2001

Taiwan-USA Link Up On SIGINT

By Wendell Minnick, JDW Correspondent, Taipei

The Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) is operating a major signals intelligence (SIGINT) facility in co-ordination with the US National Security Agency (NSA) on Yangmingshan Mountain, just north of Taipei, Jane's Defence Weekly has learned.

The NSA helps the ROC co-ordinate and process its SIGINT data collected from various SIGINT stations located around Taiwan. Data collected by the facility is processed for use by Taiwan's Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) and relayed back by satellite to the NSA.

The facility is a "data processing centre" located on a ROC military compound that is also identified as the Taiwan headquarters of a US telecommunications company based in Maryland. The company has been identified by a high-level US State Department official and a source within the MIB as a commercial front for the NSA.

The compound has an undetermined number of US citizens working with the RoC. According to Desmond Ball, an international authority on SIGINT activities in Asia, the facility employs retired and inactive duty personnel from the US military and the NSA. This avoids violating US policy that precludes having formal government facilities and personnel based in Taiwan.

The NSA has just completed a five-year upgrade and training programme at the facility. The modernisation programme facilitated the "development, design, implementation, and operation of a variety of special-purpose telecommunication and data processing systems" at the facility.

The upgrade programme incorporated new processing capabilities and provided a tenfold rise in total system capacity. This programme eliminated expensive, and obsolete and redundant systems. Information that once required hours or days to process and report now takes less than a minute.

The training programme allowed the ROC to be less reliant on NSA assistance. This has enabled the transition of support and development responsibility to ROC personnel, which has allowed the NSA to "focus on broader strategic initiatives".

The SIGINT facility and the relationship between the NSA and ROC raise serious questions about US-Taiwan intelligence sharing and the importance Taiwan plays in gathering intelligence on China.