NSA SIGINTThere are multiple UKUSA facilities across the globe which intercept communications traffic such as telephone/cellphone calls, faxes and Internet activity by tapping into fiber optic networks and satellite transmissions. This Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) network is known as ECHELON and according to open information sources it collects all telecommunications traffic both foreign and domestic which is then analyzed by National Security Agency (NSA) supercomputers for activity of interest. Here is the official report and a kml of ECHELON sites which you can view with Google Earth. In the satellite imagery you can see large spherical structures known as radomes some of which according to the report cover the microwave antenna used to eavesdrop on telecommunications satellites such as the INTELSAT fleet.
You may also be familiar with the recent controversy over domestic wiretapping by the NSA in collaboration with major telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T. According to NSA whistleblower Russell Tice "it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas... and you never made... foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications". He goes on to say "I'm sure the information -- the collection was digitized and put on databases somewhere".
DIA MASINTAs I can attest from my own experience, the government's surveillance program is more than just eavesdropping. The branch of intelligence collection which by definition would include remote measurement of brain signatures is known as Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT). Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and its subdisclipine Telemetry Intelligence (TELINT) may overlap in this regard for example when monitoring neural implants or electromagnetic emissions from the body. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is the head organization that manages MASINT for the Department of Defense (DoD). The collection and processing of space-based MASINT is carried out by JFCC-SPACE and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
There are three components to the remote neural monitoring system which I have hypothesized as being necessary for it to operate:
1. Underground Bases
Contrary to popular belief, underground bases are not just the speculation of fringe conspiracy theorists and science-fiction authors but are in fact proven to exist which is not surprising considering the threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War. The main facility in the public eye is the former headquarters of NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. Also known to the public yet veiled in secrecy is Mount Weather in Virginia which serves as the headquarters of a component of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Where the mind monitoring system is centrally located is not known. Some wild guesses are STRATCOM headquarters in Nebraska, a deep underground mine in Nevada or even somewhere under the Pacific. Since it is a military target of high strategic value as well as a socio-political threat, it is most likely well hidden and secure from attack.
2. Molecular Computing
According to technological trends, artificial intelligence is expected to match or exceed biological intelligence in 20-30 years. The human brain is roughly estimated to operate at 20 petaFLOPS (approximating 100 billion neurons with 1,000 synapses each where each synapse processes 200 operations per second). Right now the fastest unclassified supercomputer Roadrunner at Los Alamos National Laboratories has sustained 1 petaFLOPS and occupies a footprint of 560 sq. meters, so it would take a cluster of Roadrunners about the size of two football fields to match the raw processing power of one human brain. Quantum computing would exponentially improve this space/time constraint by parallelizing operations which could optimistically speed up the 1 petaFLOPS (10^15) binary computer to a 1 yottaFLOPS (10^24) 30-qubit quantum computer. This exponential increase in processing power makes problems such as brain decoding and simulation feasible for a large portion, if not all, of the population in a real-time network. Another possibility is nanotube computing. Fully developed nanotube technology (first synthesized in 1991) is estimated to have processing power on the order of yottaflops in a single one inch cube (a billion times faster than today's fastest supercomputer). Using these rough estimates this is more than enough to process the minds of the entire population in a processor the size of a shoebox.
3. Constellation of Remote Sensing Satellites
A common misconception is that there will always be a 1-2 second lag for satellite communications as seen in televised interviews from places like Iraq. This lag is due to high-altitude satellites which operate roughly 36,000 km above the Earth's surface. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are much closer operating between 160 and 2000 km. While this lower altitude decreases lag so as to be imperceptible it also limits coverage area and thus requires a large number of satellites operating as a constellation to maintain global coverage. The Iridium satellite constellation is one example with 66 active satellites in low Earth orbit.Since LEO satellite constellations can establish line-of-sight paths with imperceptible lag between any two points on the Earth's surface they are the most likely platform for a global remote sensing network where millisecond response times are critical for operation. Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites are also a possibility though would require a specialized architecture to maintain global coverage at the speed of perception (~50-150ms). For example multiple processing facilities could be placed at strategic locations across the globe and synchronized over a ground network.
From these constellations unclassified sensors are not yet capable of imaging the brain. The current state of the art in active neural sensing is limited to ranges that are within close proximity to the target area. Functional near-infrared imaging (fNIR) is one example which requires a flexible band of sensors to be worn around the forehead. For this technology to extend into space, the operational distance would need to be expanded by several hundreds of kilometers. The New World Vistas report released by the USAF Scientific Advisory Board in 1995 provides a basis for how this active neural sensing may be possible:
Modern electromagnetic scattering theory raises the prospect that ultrashort pulse scattering through the human brain can result in reflected signals that can be used to construct a reliable estimate of the degree of central nervous system arousal. The concept behind this "remote EEG" is to scatter off of action potentials or ensembles of action potentials in major central nervous system tracts.There are various transmission windows in the electromagnetic spectrum including the IR band which could allow these signals to penetrate cloud cover and propagate smoothly between the ground and space and in the case of quantum radar penetrate underground as well as underwater. Conceivably, neural implants could also be monitored from orbit in a similar way.
Electromagnetic radiation also has the capacity to interact intelligibly with the brain. Pulse modulated electromagnetic radiation has been shown to induce what is known as the microwave hearing effect which evolved from rudimentary clicks in the 1940s to voiced communication in the 1970s. Also, infrared lasers have been shown to control the firing of nerves in rats. These remote means of non-invasive interaction with the brain preclude any requirement for neural implants to transmit messages directly to the mind.