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Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room

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  • Robert G. Seeberger
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70619-0.html?tw=rss.index AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full access to its customers phone
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 10, 2006
      http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70619-0.html?tw=rss.index



      AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full access
      to its customers' phone calls, and shunted its customers' internet
      traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San
      Francisco switching center, according to a former AT&T worker
      cooperating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against
      the company.

      Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an
      affidavit in support of the EFF's lawsuit this week. That class action
      lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco last January, alleges
      that AT&T violated federal and state laws by surreptitiously allowing
      the government to monitor phone and internet communications of AT&T
      customers without warrants.

      On Wednesday, the EFF asked the court to issue an injunction
      prohibiting AT&T from continuing the alleged wiretapping, and filed a
      number of documents under seal, including three AT&T documents that
      purportedly explain how the wiretapping system works.

      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.

      Klein said he came forward because he does not believe that the Bush
      administration is being truthful about the extent of its extrajudicial
      monitoring of Americans' communications.

      "Despite what we are hearing, and considering the public track record
      of this administration, I simply do not believe their claims that the
      NSA's spying program is really limited to foreign communications or is
      otherwise consistent with the NSA's charter or with FISA," Klein's
      wrote. "And unlike the controversy over targeted wiretaps of
      individuals' phone calls, this potential spying appears to be applied
      wholesale to all sorts of internet communications of countless
      citizens."

      After asking for a preview copy of the documents last week, the
      government did not object to the EFF filing the paper under seal,
      although the EFF asked the court Wednesday to make the documents
      public.

      One of the documents is titled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring,
      San Francisco," and is dated 2002. The others are allegedly a design
      document instructing technicians how to wire up the taps, and a
      document that describes the equipment installed in the secret room.

      In a letter to the EFF, AT&T objected to the filing of the documents
      in any manner, saying that they contain sensitive trade secrets and
      could be "could be used to 'hack' into the AT&T network, compromising
      its integrity."

      According to court rules, AT&T has until Thursday to file a motion to
      keep the documents sealed. The government could also step in to the
      case and request that the documents not be made public, or even that
      the entire lawsuit be barred under the seldom-used State Secrets
      Privilege.

      AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp declined to comment on the allegations,
      citing a company policy of not commenting on litigation or matters of
      national security, but did say that "AT&T follows all laws following
      requests for assistance from government authorities."



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