Thursday, November 08, 2007

AT&T former employee to detail gov't spying

Your federal tax dollars at work:

In summer 2002, Klein was working in an office responsible for Internet equipment when an NSA representative arrived to interview a management-level technician for a special job whose details were secret.


His first inkling that something was amiss came...when he opened the door to admit a visitor from the National Security Agency to an office of AT&T in San Francisco.

"What the heck is the NSA doing here?" Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, said he asked himself.


"That's when my antennas started to go up," he said. He knew that the NSA was supposed to work on overseas signals intelligence.

The job entailed building a "secret room" in an AT&T office 10 blocks away, he said. By coincidence, in October 2003, Klein was transferred to that office and assigned to the Internet room. He asked a technician there about the secret room on the 6th floor, and the technician told him it was connected to the Internet room a floor above. The technician, who was about to retire, handed him some wiring diagrams.

"That was my 'aha!' moment," Klein said. "They're sending the entire Internet to the secret room."

The diagram showed splitters, glass prisms that split signals from each network into two identical copies. One fed into the secret room, the other proceeded to its destination, he said.

"This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style," he said. "The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T's customers but everybody's."

One of Klein's documents listed links to 16 entities, including Global Crossing, a large provider of voice and data services in the United States and abroad; UUNet, a large Internet provider in Northern Virginia now owned by Verizon; Level 3 Communications, which provides local, long-distance and data transmission in the United States and overseas; and more familiar names such as Sprint and Qwest. It also included data exchanges MAE-West and PAIX, or Palo Alto Internet Exchange, facilities where telecom carriers hand off Internet traffic to each other.

"I flipped out," he said. "They're copying the whole Internet. There's no selection going on here. Maybe they select out later, but at the point of handoff to the government, they get everything."


Klein is in Washington urging Congress not to block Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action suit pending in federal court in San Francisco, as well as 37 other lawsuits charging carriers with illegally collaborating with the NSA. He was accompanied yesterday by lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed Hepting v. AT&T in 2006. Together, they are urging key U.S. senators to oppose a pending White House-endorsed immunity provision that would effectively wipe out the lawsuits. The Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the measure Thursday.
- Washington Post (11/7/07) [emphasis mine]

Update: After Senator Dodd posted an interview with Mr Klein on YouTube, the debate on the immunization of the telecos from prosecution for their involvement in government spying has been extended. Electronic Frontier Foundation has the details.