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NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the Eye

There is much more going on than even the massive datamining discussed in USA Today. The NSA domestic phone record spying program was largely outed by a whistleblower, Mark Klein, who worked at AT&T.

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.

The Government has asserted "states secret privilege"(pdf) in the EFF lawsuit and is seeking its dismissal.

Here is Mark Klein's statement:

Statement: Mark Klein, April 6, 2006

My background:

For 22 and 1/2 years I worked as an AT&T technician, first in New York and then in California.

What I observed first-hand:

In 2002, when I was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, the site manager told me to expect a visit from a National Security Agency agent, who was to interview a management-level technician for a special job. The agent came, and by chance I met him and directed him to the appropriate people.

In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco -- actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public's phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room.

In October 2003, the company transferred me to the San Francisco building to oversee the Worldnet Internet room, which included large routers, racks of modems for customers' dial-in services, and other equipment. I was responsible for troubleshooting problems on the fiber optic circuits and installing new circuits.

While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco" dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the "splitter" cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world.

One of the documents listed the equipment installed in the secret room, and this list included a Narus STA 6400, which is a "Semantic Traffic Analyzer". The Narus STA technology is known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets. The company's advertising boasts that its technology "captures comprehensive customer usage data ... and transforms it into actionable information.... (It) provides complete visibility for all internet applications."

My job required me to connect new circuits to the "splitter" cabinet and get them up and running. While working on a particularly difficult one with a technician back East, I learned that other such "splitter" cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

What is the significance and why is it important to bring these facts to light?

Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.

Given the public debate about the constitutionality of the Bush administration's spying on U.S. citizens without obtaining a FISA warrant, I think it is critical that this information be brought out into the open, and that the American people be told the truth about the extent of the administration's warrantless surveillance practices, particularly as it relates to the internet.

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. 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.

The complaint in the EFF lawsuit is here. (pdf).

< 72 Congressman File Amicus Brief Challenging NSA Warrantless Surveillance | Did Gonzales Mislead Congress on NSA Surveillance Program? >
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  • Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#1)
    by legion on Thu May 11, 2006 at 10:24:24 AM EST
    The US is seeking "State Secrets" dismissal? If I were a lawyer, and working on this case, I would go before the judge and argue the exact opposite: This case goes to the very heart of what it means to be a free society. I feel very strongly that it is a matter of national security that this case be argued _fully in public_, before the open eyes of the People this government is supposed to be Of, By, and For.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Thu May 11, 2006 at 10:32:33 AM EST
    One gets fed up by the plaintiffs in these cases, filing stuff under seal. All that does is give the government the chance to come in and stomp the case by asserting the State Secrets privilege. If I were counsel in one of these cases, I feel I would be compelled to consider whether to allow the information to be filed openly, and let the chips fall where they may. I don't know whether I would advise going along with it or not, but it would have to be considered. Second, I do not see, from reading the pleadings, that there would be anything wrong with the judge denying the motion to dismiss - enjoining the government from violating the law is the concept at issue here. Truly a novel idea, that the government should (no, must) obey the law.

    To what extent is Klein vulnerable to civil action for violating the non-disclosure agreement he undoubtedly signed?

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#4)
    by Punchy on Thu May 11, 2006 at 11:26:01 AM EST
    Mark Klein, meet Gitmo. Gitmo, meet Mark Klein. Mark Klein's family, friends, associates, and pastor--welcome to hell. Your email inbox is about to be slammed, your voice mail box is about to be filled, and I suspect death threats around the horn....

    To what extent is Klein vulnerable to civil action for violating the non-disclosure agreement he undoubtedly signed?
    This is not relevant to the topic.

    And why not.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu May 11, 2006 at 11:48:57 AM EST
    At least Mark Klein believes in freedom...bless his soul. My new hero.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Thu May 11, 2006 at 12:16:34 PM EST
    To what extent is Klein vulnerable to civil action for violating the non-disclosure agreement he undoubtedly signed?
    None. whistleblowers are protected.

    You may be right, Sailor. What if the information he discloses is not illegal?

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#10)
    by scribe on Thu May 11, 2006 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    Setting aside the mechanics of the programs for a second, it looks like the Attorney General lied to Congress. He denied there was any monitoring/interception of purely domestic calls: read the transcript of his testimony. It wouldn't be the first time an Attorney General was, himself, a criminal. Ask John Mitchell.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu May 11, 2006 at 01:32:00 PM EST
    Ah, let us review what Mark Klien has said.
    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. 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.
    A lot of weasel words from someone who claims to be somewhat of a subject matter expert. As an ex ATT employee, I'm sure he is familar with the term, SME. Anyway. He does not "believe"..."is really limited"...this "potential" spying... "appears to be..." In addittion, the equipment he refers to can be, and proabably was, used for purposes previously described. In short, this is an allegation by a fairly low level ex-employee. Who would have no reason to be told what was going on, if it was being done under warrant, FSIA guidelines, etc. What I would be interested in is all of his current memberships, his existing relationship with his ex-employer, any disputes, attitude towards the WOT, etc.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#12)
    by jondee on Thu May 11, 2006 at 02:11:58 PM EST
    political affiliations, "is he now, or, has he ever been..?", sexual preferences, is he faithful to his spouse?, possible existense of non-aryan bloodlines..etc

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#13)
    by Johnny on Thu May 11, 2006 at 02:30:40 PM EST
    Good times. Jim, if he was saying those exact words about chemical weapons in the desert, would you call him, and I paraphrase, a liar?

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#14)
    by jondee on Thu May 11, 2006 at 02:31:06 PM EST
    Jim, in a few more hours you'll be in Lakehurst. I think you'll find the docking procedure particularly interesting..

    Credit Card numbers are listed in Phone Records. Leaving your credit card number on the internet is a vulnerability.. Oops Mastercard. Oh my.

    nice john mitchell reference, scribe! i used to think the punchline in the president's analyst was out of date. now i realize it never was.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#17)
    by glanton on Thu May 11, 2006 at 03:46:35 PM EST
    Johnny demonstrating that sometimes, it's just too easy.
    Good times. Jim, if he was saying those exact words about chemical weapons in the desert, would you call him, and I paraphrase, a liar?
    :-) Now for the bad news. Uhmerrikahns support wiretappings that go way further than Dubya's administration has gone. More and more prominent pols are feeling comfortable saying "there is no right to privacy in this country." They ought to be comfortable. This troglodyte citizenry hates the idea of privacy because it needs, more than anythign else, to judge. That portion of the citizenry that votes anyway. The rest of us are resigned at this point to just watching the charade.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu May 11, 2006 at 04:51:47 PM EST
    Jondee - Yes, when a person starts stating opinions and making claims, then who he is, or "where he is coming from" becomes of interest. Johnny - Of course not. Because he would be saying what I want to believe. Just as you will believe Mark Klein because you want to believe.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#19)
    by Che's Lounge on Thu May 11, 2006 at 09:59:09 PM EST
    Jim it's called truthiness. Disregard the facts. It just feels right. Many of us see through the truthiness of Bushco.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#20)
    by Andreas on Thu May 11, 2006 at 10:37:08 PM EST
    The WSWS writes:
    The exposure in Thursday's USA Today of a vast and secret National Security Agency data base tracking the phone calls of hundreds of millions of Americans is further evidence of the advanced preparations for the establishment of a police state in the United States. The NSA database is a blueprint for political repression and intimidation on a massive scale. The patently illegal government surveillance has nothing to do with preventing terrorist attacks, as claimed by President Bush and echoed by both the media and Democratic Party politicians who criticize various aspects of the program. It has been implemented by a state apparatus which sees its major opposition as coming from among the American people, not scattered bands of Islamic terrorists. At a time of growing social opposition, the government is systematically collecting data to find out what people are thinking and to whom they are talking. ... The NSA database could be used to track down anyone associated with political organizations opposed to the policies of the Bush administration, such as socialist, antiwar, civil rights and civil liberties groups. Anyone in regular telephone contact with such organizations is undoubtedly flagged as a potential "terrorist" in the NSA database. In the event of a roundup of such political opponents, the database would supply the names and phone numbers of all those in close contact with those targeted for arrest, thus providing a road map for further arrests and detentions.
    Framework for a police state US government phone spying targets all Americans By the editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site, 12 May 2006

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#21)
    by jondee on Thu May 11, 2006 at 10:47:01 PM EST
    No creedance should be given to any critics of the admin that are affiliated with any party but the party that never criticizes the admin. Because its always "politcally motivated attacks." Never a question of right and wrong; legality or illegality; just self-interested entities vying for power. How does that fit in with the old-fashioned, family values thing Jim?

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#22)
    by Johnny on Fri May 12, 2006 at 03:25:39 AM EST
    Just as you will believe Mark Klein because you want to believe.
    LOL Remind me again where I said I believed him?

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#23)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri May 12, 2006 at 05:38:59 AM EST
    Johnny - Well excuse me. Let me restate that. Everyone on the Left will believe Mark Klein except Johnny. Good o, Johnny. I am proud of you! Jondee - And your point is what? I repeat. Klein's comments are chuck full of "qualifiers." You will believe him because you want to. I don't. If he wants to convince me he must actually say something.

    Re: NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the (none / 0) (#25)
    by Johnny on Fri May 12, 2006 at 02:06:41 PM EST
    Johnny - Well excuse me. Let me restate that. Everyone on the Left will believe Mark Klein except Johnny. Good o, Johnny. I am proud of you!
    Geez Jimmy... Snarky personal attacks. What a surprise. Grow up. I called you on your typical insinuations and you act like a 7 year old. Typical behavior from stubborn old men.