The Corner

Re: Nsa Wiretaps and Precedent, “What Is The Nsa Program?”

Another NSA e-mail (sorry–I didn’t format the links):

Rich-

Your post on the corner, “WHAT IS THE NSA PROGRAM?” brings up a bogus

revelation, to wit, the idea that telecom. co’s cooperation with the NSA and

feds. That this is a new, post 9/11 effort would come as a surprise to many

telecom workers and those who have seen the inside of a telephone switch.

For much of the Cold War until the late 80’s, the predominant telephone

network of AT&T was funded largely through DoD spending on the AUTOVON

network (DoD switched network); AT&T got some fabulous mountaintop bunkers

out of this (see http://coldwar-c4i.net/ATT_Project/VA01/ATTsiteB.html for

one example) but also, I would imagine, at *least* implicit acceptance of

government involvement, in a large scale, in the telephone network.

Classified areas (SCIF-like rooms) in telephone switchs exist and since many

telephone networks carry classified traffic or support classified data there

is not exactly a sacred firewall between the gov and telecom that was

breached here.

Specifically with regard to NSA and other intercepts, it is widely assumed

by those familiar with government telecom that NSA can get duplicate “bits”

of any data it wants from a telecom carrier. The FBI can already do so

through the CALEA act (http://www.fcc.gov/calea/) and actually pays the

telecom for the ability to do so and the actual act of the intercept.

Clearly the NSA has this ability at least, since it would not require a

warrant as the FBI would for international calls, and surely has more

advanced capabilites, for the same reason. I would say any telecom exec

saying this is news to them is bluffing for whatever reason or kept out of

the loop by their corporate security (or chooses to ignore the budget items

that come from government agencies).

Finally, to obtain the international calls, the NSA would need to do

defacto data mining. A call no longer homes in on a physical switch or

route these days necessarily that identifies it; for instance, a cell phone

with a local number being used overseas is clearly international and in some

fashion travels over or in international waters but may route through a

local switch. One must assume the NSA intercepts these calls; to do so it

must either sort/mine routing information or intercept every single cell

phone call and fiber traffic existing; the former is more efficient and what

is done.

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