In a newly posted piece on Salon.com, two former AT&T network engineers state that an AT&T NOC (Network Operations Center) in Bridgeton, Mo. houses a 20 by 40 foot, secret room where it is thought that National Security Agency operations can be performed.
It is also believed that these operations can include the capability of intercepting VoIP calls.
The report adds some new details to previous accounts revealed by former AT&T engineer Mark Klein of the facility's role- including, as I noted on May 23- possible data interchange with a secure room at an AT&T facility in San Francisco said to have the ability to track and analyze phone calls and Internet traffic.
As to the Bridgeton operation, the room is said to be housed within a highly secured "mantrap" that requires an extraordinarily sophisticated technical procedure to enter- a procedure far more ornate than the swipe cards common to secured areas in other network operations centers.
Aid said that type of vetting is precisely the kind NSA personnel who receive top-secret SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearance go through. "Everybody who works at NSA has an SCI clearance," NSA expert Matthew Aid tells Salon.
Aid, who has written a three-book series on the agency's history, added that the physical barriers, such as bulletproof windows and what is believed to be Kevlar-enforced, bullet resistant doors, point to an NSA operation.
"The FBI, which is probably the least technical agency in the U.S. government, doesn't use mantraps," Aid said. "But virtually every area of the NSA's buildings that contain sensitive operations require you to go through a mantrap with retinal and fingerprint scanners. All of the sensitive offices in NSA buildings have them."
Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Dave Farber told Salon he thinks the facility could well be one in which data is collected, but rerouted elsewhere for monitoring or other purposes.
The un-named former AT&T network tech interviewed by Salon said that with wiretap-like devices installed at selected AT&T facilities, the Bridgeton facility could conceivably intercept pretty much anything that is needed.
According to the former network technician, workers at Bridgeton, at the direction of government officials, could conceivably collect data using any AT&T router around the country, which he says number between 1,500 and 2,000. To do so, the company would need to install a wiretap-like device at select locations for "sniffing" the desired data. That could explain the purpose of the San Francisco room divulged by Klein, as well as the secret rooms he alleged existed at AT&T facilities in other U.S. cities.
"The network sniffer with the right software can capture anything," the former network technician told Salon. "You can get people's e-mail, VoIP phone calls, -- even passwords and credit card transactions -- as long as you have the right software to decrypt that."