These photos illustrate AT&T's phone, Internet tracking activities for NSA

These photos illustrate AT&T's phone, Internet tracking activities for NSA

Summary:   Wired Magazine has obtained, and has posted, the complete text of a document that attempts to chronicle how AT&T equipped a "secret room" at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco to track domestic and international phone calls made by American citizens and others. That's the entrance to the secret room at the top of this post.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Fiber
26

attsecretroom.jpg 

Wired Magazine has obtained, and has posted, the complete text of a document that attempts to chronicle how AT&T equipped a "secret room" at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco to track domestic and international phone calls made by American citizens and others.

That's the entrance to the secret room at the top of this post.

The document, entitled AT&T’s Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, was prepared by now-retired AT&T communications technician Mark Klein and is posted here

I am going to highlight and illustrate key components of Klein's paper here. But first, it would be useful to get a sense of why Klein felt necessary to release this information.

"I wrote the following document in 2004 when it became clear to me that AT&T, at the behest of the National Security Agency, had illegally installed secret computer gear designed to spy on internet traffic. At the time I thought this was an outgrowth of the notorious 'Total Information Awareness' program which was attacked by defenders of civil liberties," Klein writes. 

"But now it’s been revealed by the New York Times that the spying program is vastly bigger and was directly authorized by President Bush, as he himself has now admitted, in flagrant violation of specific statutes and Constitutional protections for civil liberties," he adds. "I am presenting this information to facilitate the dismantling of this dangerous Orwellian project."

Now, let us delve into this document, and read what Klein has to say. 

Klein says: 

The essential hardware elements of a TIA-type spy program are being surreptitiously slipped into “real world”telecommunications offices. In San Francisco the “secret room” is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High speed fiber optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T's WorldNet service, part of the latter's vital “Common Backbone.”

In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the “secret room” on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits.(The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The “secret room” itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner.

The normal workforce of unionized technicians in the office are forbidden to enter the “secret room,” which has a special combination lock on the main door. The telltale sign of an illicit government spy operation is the fact that only people with security clearance from the National Security Agency can enter this room. In practice this has meant that only one management-level technician works in there.

Plans for the “secret room” were fully drawn up by December 2002, curiously only four months after DARPA started awarding contracts for TIA. One 60-page document, identified as coming from “AT&T Labs Connectivity & Net Services” and authored by the labs' consultant Mathew F. Casamassima, is titled “Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco and dated 12/10/02. (See sample pdf 1-4.)

I'll show you these samples in a bit. But I should point out that next, Klein describes the complexity of what was undertaken, and how those complexities were solved. 

This document addresses the special problem of trying to spy on fiber optic circuits. Unlike copper wire circuits which emit electromagnetic fields that can be tapped into without disturbing the circuits, fiber optic circuits do not “leak” their light signals. In order to monitor such communications, one has to physically cut into the fiber somehow and divert a portion of the light signal to see the information.

This problem is solved with “splitters” which literally split off a percentage of the light signal so it can be examined. This is the purpose of the special cabinet referred to above: circuits are connected into it, the light signal is split into two signals, one of which is diverted to the “secret room.” The cabinet is totally unnecessary for the circuit to perform-- in fact it introduces problems since the signal level is reduced by the splitter—its only purpose is to enable a third party to examine the data flowing between sender and recipient on the Internet.

Russ here again. In the next passage, Klein describes the splitting of the light signal, and provides a diagram that illustrates this complex process. Here's the diagram, referred to by Klein as PDF3.

figure3nsa.jpg
Klein continues:

The above-referenced document includes a diagram (pdf 3) showing the splitting of the light signal, a portion of which is diverted to “SG3 Secure Room,” i.e., the so-called “Study Group” spy room. Another page headlined “Cabinet Naming” (pdf 2-not shown here-eds.) lists not only the “splitter” cabinet but also the equipment installed in the “SG3” room, including various Sun devices, and Juniper M40e and M160 “backbone” routers.

Next we go to what Klein apportions as PDF file 4. This file, essentially, lists much of the key hardware being used to perform this work, as well as connections.

cabinetnaming.jpg 

Klein notes:

Pdf file 4 shows shows one of many tables detailing the connections between the “splitter” cabinet on the 7th floor (location 070177.04) and a cabinet in the “secret room” on the 6th floor (location 060903.01).

Finally, in terms of tracked Internet traffic, Klein alludes to Technology from a company called Naurus, who have, in press releases explained Semantic Traffic Analysis (STA) technology, that "captures comprehensive customer usagedata...and transforms it into actionable information...[it] is the only technology that provides complete visibility for all Internet applications.

Klein again: 

To implement this scheme, WorldNet's highspeed data circuits already in service had to be re-routed to go through the special “splitter” cabinet. This was addressed in another document of 44 pages from AT&T Labs, titled “SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure,” dated 01/13/03 (pdf 5-6). “SIMS” is an unexplained reference to the secret room.

And here's a graphic representation of "pdf5," which Klein says depicts the process: 

figure5.jpg 

So, readers, what do you make of all this? Necessary steps to protect us against terrorism, infringement on our civil liberties- or some of both?

Topic: Fiber

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The WiMAX Steamroller

    will set us free. With no external control over "the MESH", and encrypting ALL traffic - there will be no way to tap into the traffic. Meshing technology will randomly route traffic, and since its all encrypted - you don't know where it came from or what it is.

    This of course will make it a target of the government. Only legislation can stop the WiMAX Steamroller - and you can BET that it will happen.
    Roger Ramjet
    • agreed

      But companies like Fon have it right: http://www.fon.com

      ...besides, the government will find a way to regulate wireless so big ma bell can get hers.
      kckn4fun
  • violates civil liberty

    No matter how you cut it, this country was founded on the belief that you were entitled to probable cause prior to being spied on, searched, etc.

    There is a HUGE difference between suspecting someone of something, and investigating them for it, as opposed to proactively monitoring every conversation for even a mention of something illegal.

    No body wants big brother... but it is what we've got.

    And the bullsh*t spin that we need this to stop terrorist activity? Gimme a break. What we need is appropriate security at the correct places, for example, deadbolt steel doors on aircraft, instead of two hour waits to be strip searched. You see, there already exist plastics that are hard enough to act as a knife, or shank. Those plastics can be placed on your person and pass through a metal detector undetected... not to mention that guns can now be made out of plastics to bypass metal detectors too!

    ... and plastics is just ONE example of how these smoke and mirrors violations of our civil liberties are worthless.

    Wait, wait, one more. What if there exist terrorist "information cells?" What if their whole purpose in existence is to spy on us as we spy on them? What if these guys work at AT&T? Wait... what if they can tap on to some of these cables themselves?

    Troubling thoughts.
    kckn4fun
  • Privacy should matter

    If privacy goes out the window, then anything goes.

    Our world need rpotection from "terrorists" or anybody who's both
    socially challenged and violent but this violation of my privacy is
    not acceptable.

    It's the equivalent of a blank check. Very bad for democracy,
    domestically and abroad. There has to be a better way!
    Claude Gelinas
    • I agree

      I agree. I don't want the government spying on me. but. The wire tap story has been blown way out of whack. It's just a way for the liberal media to make Bush look bad. I don't care for the guy either and I voted for him twice. There is no spying going on of ordinary citizens.....but if a call comes in from Iran to somebody in the US, I want somebody to listen to it!
      wribbs@...
  • Orwellian is right...

    Ben Franklin said it best when he said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." This is clearly the case right now in the US. Wasn't the whole point of the "War on Terror" to defend our democratic principles and freedoms? You don't have to defend freedoms that you no longer possess.
    scurrens@...
  • That photo is all the proof I need

    When I saw the photo of the door I was convinced. How dare these people spy on me!

    There is a door very similar to this one in my building. I'm going to check it out tonight!

    Will Ribbs
    wribbs@...
  • The Price Of Freedom

    Plainly put, security is almost always inversely proportional to freedom. While I appreciate the efforts of all those around the country working to help protect us from those that would do us harm, I am simply unwilling to give up my freedoms in order to accomplish this goal (insofar as I have a choice).

    America will never, [i]never[/i] be completely safe. Terrorism will [i]never[/i] be defeated, because you can't bomb an [i]idea[/i] into submission. While I'm certainly not an advocate of dibanding the TSA or anything so drastic, it seems that there's a rather obvious line between security sweeps in high-risk locations (such as airports) and the constant monitoring of an entire nation's communications.
    Free_Thinker
  • Kinda small room with no keypad to enter

    The room is visibly kind off small to house all conversations made on AT&T's network. Plus, there is no keypad to enter to the room as the article describes.
    But, let me get this straight. AOL can record your conversations on AIM and use them in advertisements. Everyone is apparently ok with that. But, the gov. recording what numbers you call on a third party networks (NOT PRIVATE), and that is a violation of privacy.
    sethchayden
    • Not quite.

      I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with your conclusion that "everyone is apparently ok with [AOL recording AIM conversations]". That people are too apathetic and|or lazy to do anything about it does not imply that they're happy about it - they're just apathetic and|or lazy.

      Furthermore, the significance of this expands far beyond anything so simple as maintaining a list of numbers dialed.
      Free_Thinker
  • Just bad

    Our soldiers are fighting in Iraq to help them build a democracy that will provide them with the civil liberties we NO LONGER ENJOY. Impeach Bush, he and his administration are taking us to the orwellian place. War is peace, he actually said that...this program is unconstitutional.
    datdamwuf@...
  • Al Qaida thanks you.

    Without guys like Klein, terrorists might actually have to expend effort to carry out their malfeasance. Congrats.
    TexasRainmaker
  • If it is legal?

    then why was it kept a secret from the public?.
    If it is legal then why is the room restricted to people who have security clearance.
    If it is only for the number called and sent from, then why do they split the signals in half.
    Are we only getting or sending half a conversation.
    I think not.
    So guess what.
    if after they split my signal in half I am able to send/recieve the whole message then they are also getting the complete message on their half.
    Now add to this the bleating from ATT about needing more bandwidtha and we can now see why.
    They must be using a whole lot of it to split my signal in half.

    those who continually make excuses for this type of action seem to be the type that need constant reassurance that they are safe.
    I remember needing that type of reassurance when I was in diapers.
    I have grown up since
    I do not need my Mother to cradle me in her arms anymore.
    Rememberthat we only know of one such room.
    How many more are hidden away out of sight
    I must try to be more of a scardy pants so that I am able to see in more clarity the reasons for Bush and Co,s need to mother us.
    clockmendergb@...
  • Maybe it's about something else

    I checked out what Narus is selling at this link ->http://www.internetnews.com/xSP/print.php/45291

    Looks to me like that product is to enable the telcos to do the big money grab they are trying now with tiered internet services. A quote from their press release "...the heart of the data that is needed to accurately measure usage and enable 'pay-as-you-go' business models for Internet service providers...".

    Or just maybe, the spying and the tiered-internet money grab are the deal that the gov't and telcos made to scratch each others' backs. Same hardware used for both, just a different application.
    geomark
  • encryption anyone

    The very obvious solution is encryption, then you just get random noise not data. sure there are backdoors in some off the shelf packages, but not all. But this is not about terrists (sic) - its about domestic spying. The sheeple will be herded up as part of the next hurricane or other disaster incident.
    Free_Thinker
    • Re: Encryption

      Can you recommend some decent encryption software? How about encryption for VoIP? This sounds like a good stock to invest in if everyone is going that route. I can't imagine anyone wanting their private business spied upon.

      Someone asked if the NSA Spying was legal. No, it isn't but the Shrub man says it is, so I guess it is. How fu*ked is that? Remember it was Dubya that said, "The U.S. Constitution is just another goddamned piece of paper!"

      Be Afraid... Be VERY AFRAID!
      metilley@...
  • You need someting important to worry about

    If spending time writing this childish 'expose' is all you have to worry about your life must be truly idle. While this cannot possibly be all their is to a monitoring project of this scope let us hope it is better done in other places. The only people who have ever trampled my ACTUAL constitutional rights are left leaning jerkoffs like Klein.
    fmosuch@...
  • Worry too much...

    Let's play Devil's advocate and say the government is spying on everyone's phone calls. That means the government would have to listen to millions of people making multiple phone calls everyday. I don't think the government has either the manpower or the data processing power to sort throught the sheer volume of calls. Even if they did, what would they do with the conversation they recorded? If they try to use it to prosecute you, they would be the ones going to jail, not you. That evidence would be inadmissable in court, even if it proved you were guilty of a crime. If you are still worried about being spied on, then what are you up to that makes you so concerned? Are you a drug lord? Child molester? Terrorist? If not, get over it. No one cares (including the government) about your boring conversations over the telephone with your Aunt Bertha as she tells you about her aches and pains...
    Carrion
    • I think you contradicted yourself in there...

      First, I think the government DOES have the wherewithal to monitor a very very large volume of calls automatically. The hold up is the human analysis which takes time and training, the key being to know which calls to send to the real people.

      "they try to use it to prosecute you, they would be the ones going to jail, not you."

      Then say that if you're not X,Y,or Z, don't worry about it, implying that if you ARE X Y or Z, you could be somehow affected by this information gathering. Soooo, do you worry about it or not? Is it legal or not?

      I think what bothers people so much about this is not that they are feeling guilty or worried about getting arrested, but the basic sense of human dignity that asserts outrage at being the subject of such scrutiny in private affairs. For example: most of the world doesnt care if I take a crap at work (not a public place, surely) but I sure as hell would not be pleased if I knew my "quality time" were being monitered (however "anonymously).
      das224
      • Don't agree

        I don't think there is enough storage space on the planet to store the sheer volume of calls made on a daily basis (as you asert in your reply) And how many millions of years would it take to sort through it all? And for all you anti-Bush wackos out there, the whole idea of monitoring calls was a Clinton creation, not a Bush creation. So if you feel safer just because you vote Democrat, think again...
        Carrion