Saturday, April 08, 2006

Former telco employee testifies about NSA taps on long distance switching equipment

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading a class action lawsuit against AT&T in connection with the alleged illegal wiretapping of telecommunications in the US. The latest news is that AT&T allowed the National Security Agency to install data-mining equipment at the telco's international and long distance switches in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. From Wired's coverage:

Wired News: Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room

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.


"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.


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."

Thanks to Secondary Screening: Ex-AT&T Employee on NSA Wiretap Room for the link.

UPDATE (20060430): It appears that US Government is about to use the "state secrets" privilege to have this lawsuit by EFF thrown out. See: 27B Stroke 6: Feds Drop Bomb on EFF Lawsuit.

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