November 8th, 2009
This piece will attempt to analyze the US Government’s Warrantless Wiretap Program utilizing open source information including A.T.&T. Whistleblower Mark Klein’s EFF affidavit, podcasts by James Bamford and Russell Tice available on this site, and comparisons with similar surveillance networks currently in use in Great Britain and China. The rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the past thirty years has been touted as a mechanism of information freedom and open societies, a global clearinghouse for political and personal empowerment and a panacea against the forces of repression and censorship. What I will attempt to show in this piece is how those lofty goals remain largely unrealized and how governments, under the guise of “security” are, in fact, using the Internet as a new, overarching and suffocating surveillance state to monitor, compile and track the personal and private lives of virtually everyone who uses modern telecommunications in any form. I will attempt to demonstrate that, because of the erection of this surveillance regime, privacy of communications is essentially dead. I will also attempt to show how information gathered under this program can be used to populate private corporation databases and affect the general populace through credit reports, employment opportunities and the convergence of private and government databases.
Definition of Terms & Analysis of Klein’s Affidavit
Saturday, 7. November 2009
Let me begin by defining some terms to help the reader understand the overall scope of Warrantless Wiretaps. These terms will give the reader an idea of the masses of data being monitored:
The basic building block circuit for our purposes is called a DS-3. Each DS-3 contains 28 T-1s, each containing 24 voice channels. So 1 DS-3 equals 24 times 28 or 672 voice channels. These DS-3s are multiplexed to the Optical Channel level and have a numerical value of 1. Therefore, an Optical Channel or OC-3 circuit contains 3 DS-3s capacity or 2016 voice channels. An OC-12 circuit contains 12 DS-3s or 8064 voice channels; an OC-48 circuit contains 48 DS-3s or 32,556 voice channels. These circuits are multiplexed to an OC-192 DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplex) level for long distance transport. What the last term means is anywhere from 24 to 36 OC-192 (192 DS-3s) modulated on a single fiber for long distance transport. So a single optic fiber can carry almost 5,000,000 individual phone channels at once. Most single mode fiber cables contain between 50 and 100 individual fibers providing a transmit and receive path for 25-50 OC-192 DWDM circuits. I am personally certified on equipment up to and including the OC-192 DWDM level.
Now we turn to Mark Klein’s EFF affidavit in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit, Hepting v A.T.&T. :
In it, Klein describes his tasks as an A.T.&T. data communications technician in general terms as well as a project he was tasked to perform at the A.T.&T. Central Office located in 611 Folsom St., San Francisco. He describes how he was charged with the installation, test and turn-up of optical hybrid splitters to tap off optical signals from an array of A.T.&T. and other OCC (Other Common Carrier) circuits for transport and analysis within secret rooms installed in Central Offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Seattle, among others, for the National Security Agency. Inside these rooms, the traffic was routed through a Semantic Traffic Analyzer provided by Narus, an Israeli-owned company affiliated with Israel’s counterpart agency to the NSA, as documented by James Bamford in his podcast interview available on this site. It was also routed to the main NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, MD where it was stored for further data mining as part of the WWP. The splitter circuit diagrams are included on page 24 of the affidavit with the circuit cutover diagram visible on page 15. Of particular interest to me is the engineering document on page 17 of his affidavit, listing the Other Common Carriers leasing A.T.&T. facilities whose circuits and customers were also being monitored. It reads like a Who’s Who of major telecommunications IXCs (Inter-Exchange Carriers) including Qwest, Level3, Cable & Wireless, Global Crossing and a host of others. It also lists the size of each circuit routed to the NSA by it’s OC-x number as detailed above. Since Klein’s declaration only spotlights the West Coast central offices affected by this nationwide program, it is fair to assume it was also being carried out in corresponding offices on the East Coast as well.
The official justification offered by both the Bush and Obama administrations is that these circuits were only used for overseas traffic and, therefore, within the NSA’s lawful mandate to monitor overseas communications. The fallacy of that argument is that all the offices mentioned, while having some overseas circuits originating from them, primarily contained domestic telecommunications traffic. If the NSA wished to stay within its official mandate, this program could have been accomplished with far less cost by placing the NSA rooms with their equipment at overseas cable terminal offices such as the Transpacific Cable Terminal at Los Osos, near Morro Bay, CA.
Both Bamford and Tice, in their podcast interviews, speak of the two massive new NSA data storage facilities being built in Utah and Texas. Those locations are where all this information will be stored once they come online. Now consider the outsourcing of intelligence work to private contractors and security firms like CACI, Choicepoint and others who specialize in data mining from public sources as well and you begin to see the scope and impact of this program on ordinary citizens. Consider, also, Bamford and Tice’s revelations of a parallel National Telecommunications Traffic Control Center being constructed at Fort Meade identical to A.T.&T.‘s National Traffic Control Center in Bedminster, NJ. The eventual merging and sharing of this information between government and corporate entities is almost inevitable. Remember, as Benito Mussolini defined it:
“Fascism is the convergence of governmental and corporate power.”
So the questions I have are this.
1. Why is such an overarching, intrusive, draconian wiretap program necessary?
2. What mechanisms are there in place to prevent government-sourced private information from being shared with corporate entities?
3. Is the NSA positioning itself to take control of all telecommunications in the event of a national emergency?
4. What national emergency might provide a trigger mechanism for the assumption of such control?