A retired AT&T employee named Mark Klein filed a sworn affidavit last week asserting that the telecommunications giant 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, Wired News reported Friday. -- The affidavit is part of a class action lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. -- Klein claims that Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego had similar arrangements. -- The secret room also included data-mining equipment called a Narus STA 6400, known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets, according to Klein's statement, Ryan Singel reported. -- Klein wrote: 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. -- Ryan Singel gave an account of the lawsuit, which seeks up to $22,000 in damages for each AT&T customer, plus punitive fines, with possible total fines into the billions, in an earlier article, published Jan. 31. ...
WHISTLEBLOWER OUTS NSA SPY ROOM
By Ryan Singel
April 7, 2006
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.
According to a statement released by Klein's attorney, an NSA agent showed up at the San Francisco switching center in 2002 to interview a management-level technician for a special job. In January 2003, Klein observed a new room being built adjacent to the room housing AT&T's #4ESS switching equipment, which is responsible for routing long distance and international calls.
"I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room," Klein wrote. "The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room."
Klein's job eventually included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to the secret room. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.
"While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet (AT&T's internet service) circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal," Klein wrote.
The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, according to Klein's statement.
The secret room also included data-mining equipment called a Narus STA 6400, "known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets," according to Klein's statement.
Narus, whose website touts AT&T as a client, sells software to help internet service providers and telecoms monitor and manage their networks, look for intrusions, and wiretap phone calls as mandated by federal law.
Klein said he came forward because he does not believe that the Bush administration is being truthful about the extent of its extrajudicial monitoring of Americans' communications.
"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," Klein's wrote. "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."
After asking for a preview copy of the documents last week, the government did not object to the EFF filing the paper under seal, although the EFF asked the court Wednesday to make the documents public.
One of the documents is titled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco," and is dated 2002. The others are allegedly a design document instructing technicians how to wire up the taps, and a document that describes the equipment installed in the secret room.
In a letter to the EFF, AT&T objected to the filing of the documents in any manner, saying that they contain sensitive trade secrets and could be "could be used to 'hack' into the AT&T network, compromising its integrity."
According to court rules, AT&T has until Thursday to file a motion to keep the documents sealed. The government could also step in to the case and request that the documents not be made public, or even that the entire lawsuit be barred under the seldom-used State Secrets Privilege.
AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp declined to comment on the allegations, citing a company policy of not commenting on litigation or matters of national security, but did say that "AT&T follows all laws following requests for assistance from government authorities."
AT&T SUED OVER NSA EAVESDROPPING
By Ryan Singel
January 31, 2006
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on Tuesday, accusing the telecom company of violating federal laws by collaborating with the government's secret, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens' phone and internet usage.
The suit, filed by the civil liberties group in federal court in San Francisco, alleges AT&T secretly gave the National Security Agency access to two massive databases that included both the contents of its subscribers' communications and detailed transaction records, such as numbers dialed and internet addresses visited.
"Our goal is to go after the people who are making the government's illegal surveillance possible," says EFF attorney Kevin Bankston. "They could not do what they are doing without the help of companies like AT&T. We want to make it clear to AT&T that it is not in their legal or economic interests to violate the law whenever the president asks them to."
One of AT&T's databases, known as "Hawkeye," contains 312 terabytes of data detailing nearly every telephone communication on AT&T's domestic network since 2001, according to the complaint. The suit also alleges that AT&T allowed the NSA to use the company's powerful Daytona database-management software to quickly search this and other communication databases.
That action violates the First and Fourth amendments to the Constitution, federal wiretapping statutes, telecommunications laws, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to the complaint.
The suit, which relies on reporting from the Los Angeles Times, seeks up to $22,000 in damages for each AT&T customer, plus punitive fines.
AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit comes a little more than a month after the New York Times reported that in 2001, President Bush ordered the NSA to begin warrantless monitoring of Americans' overseas phone calls and internet usage.
The administration defends the eavesdropping program, saying it is only targeting communications to and from suspected terrorists, that government lawyers review the program every 45 days and that Congress authorized the president to track down 9/11 co-conspirators, thereby giving the president the ability to bypass wiretapping laws.
Some Senate Democrats and Republicans, along with civil libertarians and former government officials, counter that the wiretaps are simply illegal and that wiretapping warrants can be acquired easily if the government has probable cause to believe an American is affiliated with terrorists.
The government is not named in the lawsuit, though it is already being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over the surveillance program.
Bankston estimates that millions of people nationwide would be eligible to join the class action, pushing the possible total fines into the billions. However, he expects the administration will try to kill the lawsuit by invoking the rarely used state secrets privilege.
"If state secrecy can prevent us from preserving the rights of millions upon millions of people, then there is a profound problem with the law," says Bankston.