THE “SHADOW GOVERNMENT” IS USING “NATIONAL SECURITY”
AS AN EXCUSE TO LISTEN AND READ WHAT ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE SAYING. ORDINARY
PEOPLE THEN MUST BE “THE ENEMY.”
AT&T agreed to allow large portions of sealed documents
that sit at the heart of an anti-spying case against the telecom giant which
alleges the company illegally installed secret surveillance rooms in its
internet facilities at the behest of the National Security Agency. The
case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in January 2006 relies on
documents provided to the group by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician who
took three documents home with him when he retired in 2004.
AT&T acceded to the disclosure only after the EFF
threatened to ask a federal appeals court to unseal documents that had been
published by Wired
News and Frontline,
which would have forced the company’s lawyers into the embarrassing position of
arguing that documents available on the internet for more than a year were
secret, according to Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director.
Those documents, along with a signed declaration from Klein
and an interpretation of the documents by internet expert J. Scott Marcus, were
kept mostly under wraps by court order that applied to the parties in the case.
However, Wired News was able to independently acquire significant portions of
the wiring diagrams, equipment list and task orders, and published them in May
2006. Today’s newly released portions of the Hepting documents confirm
that the Wired documents are the same as those under seal.
The document release comes as AT&T, the EFF and the
government prepare to battle in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August,
where the government and AT&T seek to overturn lower court order allowing
the case to proceed. The government argues that the case must be thrown
out since it involves national security matters, while AT&T says it can’t
defend itself without spilling classified information. Federal district
court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled
last July that the case could proceed because the president admitted the
existence of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ overseas
“Dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice
liberty for no apparent enhancement of security,” Walker wrote.
The interpretation of Klein’s documents by Marcus, a former
CTO for GTE and a former advisor to the FCC, are the most interesting documents
“This configuration appears to have the capability to
enable surveillance and analysis of internet content on a massive scale,
including both overseas and purely domestic traffic,” Marcus wrote.
AT&T likely has 15 to 20 of these rooms around the
country, shipped data out of the rooms via a separate network to another
location and collectively, the rooms were able to keep tabs on some 10% of the
nation’s purely domestic intenret traffic, according to Marcus.
The obvious and natural design for a massive surveillance
system for IPO-based data, and the one most cost-effective to implement, would
in my judgment be comprised of the following elements:
(1) massive data capture at the locations where the data can
(2) high speed screening and reduction of the captured data
at the point of capture in order to identify data of interest,
(3) shipment of the data of interest to one or two central
collection points for more detailed analysis, and
(4) intensive analysis and cross correlation of the data of
interest by very powerful processing engines at the central location or
The AT&T documents demonstrate that the equipment that is
well suited for the first three of these tasks was deployed to San Francisco,
and, with high probability, to other locations. I infer that the fourth element
also exists at one or more locations.
Cindy Cohn hopes the new documents will let people see that
there case is grounded in fact and that the government’s argument that national
security is at risk is overblown.
“It really paints them in to a corner how unreasonable
their claims of state secrets are,” Cohn said. “I’m hoping [the
document release] demonstrates we are right and know what we are talking about
and that we don’t need much more to win our case. We are much claoser than
AT&T did not respond to questions about the quality of
Marcus’ analysis. Instead a company spokesman re-issued its long-standing,
canned statement: “AT&T is fully committed to protecting our customers’
privacy. We do not comment on matters of national security.”
Wired News, which AT&T called a “scofflaw”
for publishing the documents, unsuccessfully
attempted to get the documents unsealed.
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