AT&T assisting in mass surveillance?

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EFF is suing AT&T claiming that they've been assisting the government in wholesale Internet surveillance. Here's the writeup from Wired about what supposedly happened:
According to a statement released by Klein's attorney, an NSA agent showed up at the San Francisco switching center in 2002 to interview a management-level technician for a special job. In January 2003, Klein observed a new room being built adjacent to the room housing AT&T's #4ESS switching equipment, which is responsible for routing long distance and international calls.

"I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room," Klein wrote. "The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room."

Klein's job eventually included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to the secret room. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

"While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet (AT&T's internet service) circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal," Klein wrote.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, according to Klein's statement.

The secret room also included data-mining equipment called a Narus STA 6400, "known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets," according to Klein's statement.

Narus, whose website touts AT&T as a client, sells software to help internet service providers and telecoms monitor and manage their networks, look for intrusions, and wiretap phone calls as mandated by federal law.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that what Klein is saying is substantially accurate. That sounds bad but doesn't necessarily mean that the NSA is doing mass surveillance on Americans. It could, for instance, be targeting only traffic destined to be routed out of the US, or traffic for which the NSA has FISA warrants, etc. Given the government's reluctance so far to reveal details of its surveillance program, it may be hard to find out what's really going on. On the other hand, given Alberto Gonzales's statement that he can't rule out domestic warrantless wiretaps, I wouldn't exactly be shocked if it turned out that something like that was already going on.

2 Comments

Sure. We don't know because neither of the alleged participants is talking.


Assuming warrants were always issued, it would seem that having this 2-trillion record database is beneficial for law enforcement and maybe even 'the general welfare'. But how is it good for AT&T? It has to cost them big $$, yet I don't see the payoff for them. Any thoughts? They already have a short-term corpus of call records (SCAMP). What's the value for them in keeping everything? They have no obligation to do this out of the goodness of their hearts, after all.

It's called fascism, better known when corporate and government entities merge together.

Welcome to the new America. The "terrorist" won. Too bad most of us Americans are lazy cowards...

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