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Bad Ronald fans alert: Ken Schultz hips us to a really bizarre Wired News story, in which AT&T is allowing the National Security Agency access to its customers' phone and email data. NSA, according to a retired AT&T communications technician, was able to build a "secret room" in the company's San Francisco switching center.

According to a statement released by [Mark] 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.

"I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room," Klein wrote. "The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room."

Klein's job eventually included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to the secret room. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego…

The secret room also included data-mining equipment called a Narus STA 6400, "known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets," according to Klein's statement.

Whole story. Klein is cooperating with a lawsuit against AT&T by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Narus may sound like something Dr. Who has to fight, but one observer claims it also has some anti-VoIP potential. A few years back, Jeff Taylor described Lamar (!) Alexander's weird role in the battle between VoIP and traditional phone companies.

Experience plenty of secret rooms, at the Winchester Mystery House.

Bad Ronald reviewed.

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  1. My spidey-sense is telling me that the FEC server is processing multiple queries about “Mark Klein” from “San Francisco” at this very moment.

  2. And all this time I had blamed posting problems on the Reason Server squirrels (fairy?). I should have known it was only a bunch of spooks and black boxes! I’m sorry, little squirrels. (Now all the rest of you must appologize as well.) 🙂

  3. I’ve despised ATT for a long time. Guess I was right. Unfortunately, they bought SBC so now I’m stuck with them for land lines.

  4. Why isn’t the government being sued as well?

  5. If you like that you’ll love the specs on the on they’re using:

    -Industry-leading packet processing performance that supports network speeds of up to OC-192 at layer 4 and OC-48 at layer 7, enabling carriers to monitor traffic at either the edge of the network or at the core.

    That’s 10 Gbps of TCP traffic or 2.5 Gbps of HTTP/SMTP/NNTP/et al. traffic. Equivalent to 1600+ T1 lines, or 51,428 video boobies (yes, I did do the math).

    I’m not sure if “Semantic Traffic Analysis” means they’re just looking at the types of traffic (e.g. web vs. P2P vs. VOIP etc.) or if they’re actually doing some sort content analysis using something like Bayesian networks (what else would be fast enough?).

  6. Why isn’t the government being sued as well?

    I don’t know if anyone is, but even if no one is now, I suspect someone will. It’s probably easier to get the necessary evidence to go after the government by way of a private party. …maybe a private party’s claims of immunity due to national security don’t hold water like the same claim coming from the NSA?

    It is kinda funny though to see people ask for government help in getting a private party to stop collaborating with government. At any rate, anyone that claims that the government is only listening to the foreign side of phone calls will have to account for this, and I don’t think this ‘ll be easy to account for.

    A large chunk of the American people want the NSA doing this anyway, I fear. …of course, that doesn’t make it right. …or desirable.

  7. This surprises you? You’ve never heard of Echelon?

  8. similar cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego…

    Highly-wired blue-state cities, all with high education levels, high numbers of technologically sophisticated residents, high earning power and discretionary spending per capita.

    Terrorism my ass. They are mining data to sell to marketers (see also), and they’re collecting hopelessly skewed data on Internet shopping habits to show that they need to tax online purchases. “Look how much tax revenue we’re hemorrhaging! (Based on online shopping in the most online-shopping-addicted cities in the U.S.!)”

    Of course, they might also be looking for seditious, lawless gays and lesbians who are plotting to marry.

    Or, they’re looking for suspicious conversations between aging hippie anti-war activists, like the one I overheard Saturday at an espresso joint (typical West Coast hangouts for America-hating terrorliberals):

    “She’s a bonsai expert, didn’t you know? We went over to Swanson’s nursery and picked up a couple of these little maples. She’s going to show me how to start shaping it.”

    “Oh, how lovely! I saw this exhibit at the Cherry Blossom Festival…hrmph, I think they put too much foam on this mocha.”

    Now that’s just the kind of thing you want to report to the NSA right away. I mean, really, to be truly civic-minded, you should just pick up the phone and hit the panic button as soon as you see “wearable art” on anybody. Any menopausal woman in silver earrings from Thailand, a purple silk batik top, loose black cotton pants covered in cat hair, and a pair of Merrells, is almost certainly a terrorist.

  9. In any case, I think that it’s safe to say that the NSA now has the largest porn stash on the planet.

  10. In this, case it probably won’t all come out in discovery.

  11. I’m waiting for John to show up and explain how this is all no big deal.

  12. Big deal, or no big deal?

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