AT&T allegedly built rooms for NSA

Former AT&T employees say that the phone company maintained a secret room that could have been used as part of the NSA's datamining operations.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

Former AT&T employees say that the phone company maintained a secret room that could have been used as part of the NSA's datamining operation, Salon.com reports:

In the Electronic Frontier Foundation's suit against AT&T, a redacted document was released Thursday which supports claims that AT&T built highly secure rooms for NSA personnel to conduct datamining of long-distance records. The court released a statement by a former FCC advisor, J. Scott Marcus, who examined records provided by a former AT&T technician that "describe how AT&T reconfigured its network in San Francisco and installed special computer systems in a secret room, allegedly to divert and collect Internet traffic to help the NSA conduct warrantless surveillance," Salon reported.

Marcus concludes in his statement that the documents are authentic and, after considering a number of possible reasons for the reconfiguration -- such as legitimate network monitoring and maintenance -- writes that the system AT&T installed in a secret San Francisco room, and likely other cities, was "exceptionally well suited to a massive, distributed surveillance activity" and that "no other application provides as good an explanation for the combination of engineering choices that were made."

Marcus found that while the the system could have been intended for lawful traffic intercepts, the expense of the additions and AT&T's cash-strapped situation made that highly unlikely. "I therefore conclude that it is highly probable that funding came from an outside source, and consider the U.S. Government to be the most likely source," he wrote.

Marcus speculates, according to Salon:

[T]hat the secret San Francisco room is connected to two separate networks -- the regular commercial network on which e-mail, Web surfing and voice-over Internet Protocol traffic runs, and the second private, covert network that is partitioned off from the regular network and is used to divert traffic that has been copied and sent back to a central collection place. He suggests that massive amounts of data are collected at 15 to 20 locations around the country, where it is automatically screened and winnowed down to only "data of interest" by a special system installed in San Francisco (and likely elsewhere) before it is shipped off to one or two central collection points, where it is processed by powerful computers and analyzed by skilled staff.
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