Echelon is not a collection system, but an extensive filtering system.

As we move into 2000 and beyond, it is clear that the NSA and others face difficulty in getting what they want out of all the traffic, as well as facing encryption and fiber optics. The future for them is probably in network attacks.

The key component of Echelon is a computer function called 'dictionary,' which just does to text messages what (search engines) Yahoo or AltaVista do, it searches out words.