NSA Can 'Vacuum' Emails Across Internet
The National Security Agency has the means to "vacuum” all e-mails and other data crossing the Internet, a former AT&T employee familiar with the technology reveals.
The disclosures of Mark Klein, who worked for AT&T for more than 22 years, come in connection with a class-action lawsuit filed in January by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It accuses the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the NSA in its program to wiretap Americans' communications.
According to the EFF, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers and words in an attempt to identify suspected terrorists.
On March 31 and April 5 of this year, the EEF – a nonprofit organization that seeks to defend free speech, privacy and consumer rights – filed papers with the court asking that it order AT&T to stop disclosing the contents of its customers' communications to the U.S. government.
In support of this motion, the EFF filed a declaration from Mark Klein, which was reproduced on the Web site Wired News.Klein said that in January 2003, while he was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, he saw that a "secret room” was being built adjacent to a switching room where the public’s phone calls are routed. Under the direction of the NSA, special equipment was being installed in the room, which was off-limits to most employees.
In October 2003, AT&T appointed Klein to oversee the Worldnet Internet room, "which included large routers, racks of modems for customers' dial-in services, and other equipment,” he said. "While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal.”
Klein said he saw a design document that "listed the equipment installed in the secret room, and this list included a Narus STA 6400, which is a ‘Semantic Traffic Analyzer.’ The Narus STA technology is known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets.”
He also learned that similar technology was being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Klein said in his declaration: "Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet - whether that be peoples' e-mail, Web surfing or any other data."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.”