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AT&T-NSA documents leaked
May 22, 2006 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Wired News has obtained a copy of a file detailing AT&T's involvement with the NSA that was sealed in the EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T. At 2AM EST this morning they have published that file on their site for anyone to download (this is the fixed link, the one on Wired is currently broken).[via]
posted by Ryvar (67 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Didn't want to editorialize in the post, so I'll do it here: 1984 was not intended as a fucking how-to manual.
posted by Ryvar at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


In 2003 AT&T built “secret rooms” hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which
taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire Internet.


I'm doubtful about the truthfulness of this affadavit. Lawful interception is a standard feature designed into every telecommunications network. There is no need to AT&T to build rooms (secret or otherwise, deep in the bowls or in out in the open) for a government spy operation. It's a nice, scary image, but it's probably false.
posted by three blind mice at 5:46 AM on May 22, 2006


Actually, it's extremely likely that the NSA would want an access-restricted room to house their equipment, and it's extremely easy to create such a room in a facility designed for easy subdivision into access-restricted rooms.

While three blind mice is correct that telecom equipment manufacturers must, by law, build in intercept capabilities for the U.S. government, using those individually would leave records. The operation described here would give the NSA raw access to all the data flowing by. It would be like being suspended overhead at a major highway intersection. Without any further cooperation from any internet company, and without leaving any further records, they would be able to spy on a huge amount of communications.

That said, Wired published this file almost a week ago, and this is Wired responding to the feedback it has gotten about doing so.
posted by jellicle at 6:03 AM on May 22, 2006


jellicle: are you sure? It's quite possible I'm wrong, but I can't find anything that indicates that the pdf was released in full (rather than a few excerpts) until tonight. It wasn't mentioned in the previous thread about this topic on March 17th.
posted by Ryvar at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2006


As if anything will come of this. Political action only happens when:

(a) someone dies
(b) someone has sex
(c) something explodes
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Scandals can only happen when something bad happens, and the press is outraged. I heard that somewhere. Time will tell.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 6:50 AM on May 22, 2006


hoverboards: you forgot the children!
posted by Mach5 at 7:02 AM on May 22, 2006


Actually, it's extremely likely that the NSA would want an access-restricted room to house their equipment, and it's extremely easy to create such a room in a facility designed for easy subdivision into access-restricted rooms.

It seems to me that there is is no technical need for this jellicide. Even if there was a desire to circumvent the LI ports, there is no need for the equipment to be physical co-located. A few months ago, the phone of Chief of Staff for the Greek prime minister was tapped because someone inserted spyware into Vodafone's Ericsson switch. There was no secret spy room deep in the bowels of Vodafone's HQ in Athens. Moreover it seems to me unlikely that the NSA would want to put its equipment and agents in commercial facilities when it could do all of this remotely.

This aspect of his affadavit seems a bit too Jack Bauer for me.
posted by three blind mice at 7:03 AM on May 22, 2006


tbm- They're not tapping individuals, they're passively filtering all traffic passing through there.

Besides, the obvious question is- if this guy is a liar, why would the NSA care so much about releasing his claim?
posted by mkultra at 7:13 AM on May 22, 2006


three blind mice: I haven't decided which side I'm on yet; granted you can tap a single phone, or even a whole bunch of phones remotely, but I don't think it would be feasible to tap a backbone remotely. You'd need a huge pipe to transmit that data all the way back to HQ. In this case I can totally see it being easier to install a blackboxes along the line.
posted by pantsrobot at 7:16 AM on May 22, 2006


Wired had the guy's affidavit up previously in HTML form; the full PDF which the submitter inexplicably does not link only went up today.

There was no secret spy room in Greece because the NSA only wanted to tap a few hundred mobile phones. Or, vice versa, the NSA only tapped a few hundred phones because they couldn't get better physical access to the facility. :)

Look, the data flowing around any of the co-location facilities is huge. What exactly is your "no equipment onsite" scenario, three blind mice? How do you think the data is going to get from point A, SBC's phone switch building at 611 Folsom St., to point B, NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade Maryland? Visualize it - here's a big wire running from Ft. Meade, it runs across the country, into 611 Folsom St. Now I'm standing in 611 Folsom St., I've got a wire in my hand. Here's some fiber optic cables with data flowing through them that I want to snoop on. What do you want me to do, glue them together? Duct tape? And wire A is supposed to magically read the contents of wire B, without any other equipment onsite? Of course the NSA is going to have equipment on site. The more data they can distill on-site, the better their operation will be, because they certainly can't ship 100% of the content of everyone's phone calls across the country. (Even that would require equipment, to do the copying.) Rather, they examine every call on-site, discard most of them, and send only a small percentage back home for further study.
posted by jellicle at 7:25 AM on May 22, 2006


Since I don't know how long this will be up at Wired, I have mirrored it on my site at http://jaduncan.net/mark-kleins-att-statement-in-the-eff-case
The HTML and the PDF are both there, and all in one page since I don't have to care about ad views.
posted by jaduncan at 7:43 AM on May 22, 2006


We're not talking about tapping out a couple of phone lines here. They duplicated the complete signal flowing through their exchange and routed it to their Narus packet-filtering system. Previous MeFi

There's every indication that this was not limited to a single substation on the internet (so to speak) for the West Coast. They probably have the capability to monitor a vast proportion of the domestic internet traffic.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2006


Anyone else think someone at Wired's gonna wake up dead tomorrow?
posted by Mikey-San at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2006


I sure hope not, Mikey. Wired is fulfilling its patriotic duty to protect the people from abuse of power in a way that the vast majority of mainstream news sources has completely abandoned. I just renewed my subscription, and got another as a gift.
posted by squirrel at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Without any further cooperation from any internet company, and without leaving any further records, they would be able to spy on a huge amount of communications.

This is critical, and probably why the allegations are true: If you're trying to run an illegal operation, you do not want technicians or other employees without security clearance looking over your shoulder, knowing what equipment you use, or otherwise documenting any other aspect of your work.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2006


There is no need to AT&T to build rooms (secret or otherwise, deep in the bowls or in out in the open) for a government spy operation. It's a nice, scary image, but it's probably false.

It's just for show -- this way, they can unveil the rooms during a Discovery Channel special with cameras following a team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass. The ratings will be spectacular.

On a more serious note, it's nice to see Wired News doing something that resembles journalism, instead of the usual p.r. for Steve Jobs. I wonder if this marks the beginning of a trend.
posted by Alexandros at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2006


I think the reason that there isn't much outrage is because everyone already assumed that the NSA could listen to anything and everything. That is certainly the impression you get from the movies
posted by zeoslap at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2006


I'm a little outraged that Wired seems to be using a script that continuously spawns pop-unders, despite Safari's blocker. Are they trying to drive away readers?
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:06 AM on May 22, 2006


I'm using Safari here, too, P.E. (version 2.0.3) No pop-unders for me.
posted by emelenjr at 9:14 AM on May 22, 2006


They're "Lycos Canada" pop-unders, so it's probably the Canadian branch of the parent company at fault. I sent them a feedback note

Back on topic, good on Wired. But won't this destroy the EFF's chances of winning their lawsuit, now that they (appear to) have broken the judicial seal order.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2006


Wired doesn't use pop-unders, the NSA injects them to discredit Wired.
posted by uncle harold at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2006


Actually, they didn't break the gag order. The order was fairly specific as to who could or could not reveal this information.

The court's gag order is very specific in barring only the EFF, its representatives and its technical experts from discussing and disseminating this information. The court explicitly rejected AT&T's motion to include Klein in the gag order and declined AT&T's request to force the EFF to return the documents.

As long as their anonymous source was not affiliated with the EFF, they're in the clear.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2006


posted by hoverboards don't work on water As if anything will come of this. Political action only happens when:

(a) someone dies
(b) someone has sex
(c) something explodes


Where did this happen during Watergate?
posted by fandango_matt at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2006


"Wired doesn't use pop-unders, the NSA injects them to discredit Wired."
Well done Uncle Harold.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2006


I'm a little outraged that Wired seems to be using a script that continuously spawns pop-unders,

Isn't it kind of the nature of what's wrong with contemporary America that people are more outraged by popunders than they are by domestic spying?
posted by slatternus at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2006


Bravo, Wired.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2006


Isn't it kind of the nature of what's wrong with contemporary America that people are more outraged by popunders than they are by domestic spying?

1775: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
2006: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death*

*: Apologies to PE and Dead Kennedys
posted by Mr. Six at 10:48 AM on May 22, 2006


Scandal happens when the Washington elite are willing to talk about their disapproval of the thing in question. If they aren't, the press can't run repeated stories about it.

Watergate had plenty of Democratic politicos willing to talk about how outraged they were that the Republicans would do such a thing.

In Washington today, the Republicans aren't going to feed an anti-Republican scandal, and the Democrats are too timid to tie their own shoes in the morning, so they won't talk about scandals either. If no one is willing to cluck and tut and wag their finger, it isn't a scandal.
posted by jellicle at 10:51 AM on May 22, 2006



Instead, the N.S.A. began, in some cases, to eavesdrop on callers (often using computers to listen for key words) or to investigate them using traditional police methods. A government consultant told me that tens of thousands of Americans had had their calls monitored in one way or the other. "In the old days, you needed probable cause to listen in," the consultant explained. "But you could not listen in to generate probable cause. What they're doing is a violation of the spirit of the law." One C.I.A. officer told me that the Administration, by not approaching the FISA court early on, had made it much harder to go to the court later.

-- Seymour Hersh
posted by digaman at 11:07 AM on May 22, 2006



It seems to me that there is is no technical need for this jellicide. Even if there was a desire to circumvent the LI ports, there is no need for the equipment to be physical co-located.


This is where you're wrong. It's physically impossible to transport this amount of traffic to a remote location. We're talking a majority of the entire internet and phone network signal, not individual communications. This is millions of gigabytes a second. AT&T's entire existence depends on the maintenance of this network, and the NSA, no matter how technical they are, cannot simply ferry this amount of traffic to a remote location.
posted by odinsdream at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2006


Whether they can or can't, we're weighing Three Blind Mice's theoretical notion against factual evidence and testimony. For now, I'll give the concrete evidence and testimony more weight unless it's proven false.
posted by digaman at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2006


I always thought the NSA did this anyways, just that they were more discreet about it.

I wonder if their technology can detect rasterized messages in a jpeg or video file?
posted by disgruntled at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2006


I would think this means that the EFF case has a better chance of going forward, now that the sealed information has been leaked, and the public can see that it's more of the same of what they already know. I mean, the horse is out of the barn now. How can the feds argue that the case can't go froward in order to protect secrets that aren't secret anymore? Especially if those secrets are criminal acts.
posted by squirrel at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


I wonder if their technology can detect rasterized messages in a jpeg or video file?

Well, it's basically just OCR functionality (not sure how it would work in video, though). I don't doubt that they can easily do this on-demand, but I don't see this working in any kind of passive dragnet:

- They'd need to scan every image or video file, which is a lot. I could send someone an hour-long video with one frame containing my secret message. If I don't know it's there, finding that takes a lot of time and horsepower.

- File formats. Can it read PSD's? Illustrator paths? What about Zipped files? What if I pull out an old version of Stuffit? What if I just change the file extension to ".xyz"?
posted by mkultra at 12:24 PM on May 22, 2006


Why do you hate freedom, mkultra?
posted by squirrel at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2006


What are you talking about? I love France.

What I hate is my government taking a shit on my head and calling it sunblock.
posted by mkultra at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2006 [2 favorites]


How can the feds argue that the case can't go froward in order to protect secrets that aren't secret anymore?

One obvious explanation would be that they have yet more illegal programs that they do not want revealed.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2006


Newsfilter: ISP implements secret warrant policy
posted by Mr. Six at 12:38 PM on May 22, 2006


New meme?
posted by mkultra at 12:43 PM on May 22, 2006


What I hate is my government taking a shit on my head and calling it sunblock.

posted by mkultra at 12:28 PM PST on May 22
Best comment I've read on the blue in, well, ever.
posted by scrump at 12:56 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, shit does block harmful UV rays.
posted by squirrel at 1:32 PM on May 22, 2006


mkultra You know what I'm going to say already by reading my mind but wouldn't it be massively easier to just encrypt it? I don't even mean PGP, I mean send a completely innocuous file that has some agreed upon meaning: a little girl playing in the sand means we attack tonight, the number of buttons that are undone in a cheesy tourist self portrait is part of the date, etc. Kind of like the "courage mom" morse in Wag the Dog or the real-life anagram of the Viet Kong not grokking the meaning of the middle finger.
posted by Skorgu at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2006


s/anagram/analogy/g obviously.
posted by Skorgu at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2006


Technology is useful but HARMFUL, suks!
posted by ick_chan at 2:03 PM on May 22, 2006


You only said that because I planted that thought there, dude.
posted by mkultra at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2006


Not that any sane person thinks this program will be effective against terrorists anyway, but actual terrists, at least since the Madrid bombings, have been communicating without fear of eavesdropping.

Dragnets on this scale are worthless if your goal is to find small communicating cliques.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:11 PM on May 22, 2006


Sadly, none of these reverse warnings will really work if the FBI or NSA "stops by" all the time. They assume a baseline non-police state.

What I hate is my government taking a shit on my head and calling it sunblock.

With any luck, -this- is the new meme.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2006


Anyone else think someone at Wired's gonna wake up dead tomorrow?

Or in jail, if the Attorney General acts on his recent threats.
posted by homunculus at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2006


Skorgu, what channel do you use to communicate about which coded symbol means what?
posted by cortex at 3:02 PM on May 22, 2006


« This is the infrastructure for an Orwellian police state. It must be shut down! »
posted by zenzizi at 3:15 PM on May 22, 2006


get out of my teeth!
posted by Skorgu at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2006


cortex The same channel you use to communicate to look in a long movie file for one frame of useful info :) You're always going to need either out-of-band communications (little girl = attack at midnight) or an obvious enough scheme that your recipient will be able to 'guess' what to look for or what the meaning is (two sticks and a cake with a stick hanging off it = 911).

Really if Alice Al Zarqawi and Bob bin Laden are even slightly clever, this data-mining stuff is a waste of time. Oh, and civil liberties but we're not supposed to talk about that. Obviously, when searching for a needle in a haystack the first step is to make the haystack bigger.

I'm not even overly outraged that the NSA is listening to my phone calls, I don't really expect any privacy there anyway. What outrages me is the cowboy attitude that this is legal because we said so, and damn the FISA. I expect governments to use all means necessary to maintain national security, if someone is a terrorist and you have a reasonable belief that tapping the phone will stop a terrorist attack you tap the phone and damn the repercussions.

Terrorism isn't national security, it's law enforcement. You win a war, there's a battlefield and a bad guy and a victory condition. Its perfectly OK to shoot (almost) everything that moves. Terrorism needs a softer touch, the kind of delicate balance that law enforcement agencies have been balancing on for hundreds of years. You need to treat the average joe/jose/mohammed as your responsibility just as much as a potential criminal, not as a target that continues to exist only through your temperence. Soldiers are bad at this, and that's good; posee comitatus keeps the guys with the biggest guns off the street not just because it's bad for the citizens but because its bad for the troops. Soldiers can't soldier if they're also policing but that's a distinction that is lost on almost everybody it seems.

Thats what really bugs me. The Everything Is A Nail approach to policy, the shoot first, shoot second, jump, shoot again and maybe next tuesday think about asking a question or looking around mentality that the government (not just the administration) has amply demonstrated since 9/11 that irritates me the most. It's not even the lack of a public debate on these issues (that ship has sailed); it's the feeling I get that there wasn't even an internal debate, at any level of the decision making process.
posted by Skorgu at 4:21 PM on May 22, 2006


Well said, skorgu.
posted by digaman at 5:08 PM on May 22, 2006


Terrorism isn't national security, it's law enforcement.

Nicely put.

If terrorism is a crime, then the 'war on terror' is a category mistake. It's like a war on littering, or getting a ticket for preemptive invasion: a linguistic absurdity. War crimes courts admittedly present a challenge on this view: how are we to differentiate misdemeanor and felony genocide?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2006


Right on, Skorgu.

...two sticks and a cake with a stick hanging off it = 911

I find this image oddly arousing.
posted by squirrel at 5:28 PM on May 22, 2006


Encryption cannot defend against traffic analysis. They may not be able to decode your messages, but they can see where they are sent.
posted by ryanrs at 5:53 PM on May 22, 2006


but they can see where they are sent but if you arrange for everybody to be on spam lists and simply send spam with the codes in it

"V1/\gra" means srike hard at dawn
"C|^L1s" means we may face stiff opposition
posted by Megafly at 6:38 PM on May 22, 2006


Megafly, you just made the list, buddy.
posted by squirrel at 10:36 PM on May 22, 2006


When are you murrikans going to just stand up and say, "No More"? I'm tired of you harping on about your civil liberties and not doing anything tangible about them.
posted by Jerub at 10:47 PM on May 22, 2006


just stand up and say, "No More"?

Done. I stood. I said. Can I have my liberty back now?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:45 PM on May 22, 2006


Done. I stood. I said. Can I have my liberty back now?

Sure. But first we need just a teensy little bit of bloodshed, some violent overthrow, and a long painful period of reconstruftion. But nothing extravagant, and nothing that thinkers haven't seen coming for the last 30 years.
posted by slatternus at 12:55 AM on May 23, 2006


yeah... see, here's the thing: posse comitatus doesn't cover insurrections. no matter how overextended the american military might be, they'll be sure take some time out of their busy day to put a bunch of uppity academics and computer engineers out of their misery.

No cobblestones, no revolution. Think Kent State.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:54 AM on May 23, 2006


digiman, squirrel and anotherpanacea: Thanks :)

squirrel: I got the quote wrong, it should be "Two sticks, a dash and cake with a stick down." Chatter indeed.

anotherpanacea:
Notice how every time a politicial declares a 'war' on something it fails miserably? War on Poverty? War on Drugs? War on Terror? Pattern recognition isn't the strong suite of either our politicians or our electorate.

One of the things I've noticed rhyming in history is that revolution is directly proportional to the average citizen's hunger. As long as we have time to debate this on MeFi instead of scrounging for food or waiting on a bread line, I don't think we'll see a violent overthrow of the government anytime soon. Now if the international derivatives market slips on its way to the bathroom all bets are off, but lets just hope that doesn't happen. Short of that I think we're stuck.

I think part of the problem lies with the way the US government is set up. Those of us who do take exception to the way this idiotic administration is running things really have very little power until a) the midterms and ii) the presidential elections. Us blue-staters can't do much but pressure our congresscritters to act like an opposition party.

The real problem, as I see it, is twofold: the unequal representation of political power and the ability of states to set educational guidelines. One by itself would be bad enough but two together conspire to pull the nation as a whole further from centrism than it (seems like it) ought to be.

I.e. Small (population) states have correspondingly small educational budgets and (in general) lower educational standards, fewer quality institutes of higher education and fewer modern job opportunities. This is a negative spiral that keeps poor, relatively undeducated communities from becoming prosperous and progressive. At the same time, the electoral imbalance in favor of low-population states keeps the Federal government from progressing as the majority of the population wishes, which prevents the majority from dragging the slackers forward, which keeps the small states down, et cetera.

Either we need to federalize the educational system or fix nuke the electoral college.

Since a democracy depends on nothing so much as a free flow of information and ideas, federalizing the educational system makes some sense, but the libertarian in me reels at the thought, and the fiscal conservative in me passes out at the mere thought of the waste such a program would make. Fixing the representational system is a much more appealing prospect but somehow I don't think Wyoming is going to be in favor (note too how the constitutional amendment process is biased towards unity of states which translates to a comparitive advantage to low-population states).

The bottom line is that, as idiotic a system as it is I think we're stuck with it. What we can, should and must do is to take an interest in our local politics. The local mayoral and gubernatorial races as well as the party primaries are where a lot political trends start, to say nothing of the absolute importance of school boards no matter how dispicable they may be. The great part about local politics is that the low turnout acts as a force multiplier; your voting some schmuck out of a school board combined with other activists voting their schmucks out of minor offices everywhere control the candidates from which the sheep will chose the one with the better hair.

Its like a street hustler's card game: the player chooses but the dealer chooses what choices the player gets. If enough of us get on the right side of the card table we can effect some real change. Hopefully. And that was way more of a rant than I intended.
posted by Skorgu at 9:03 AM on May 23, 2006 [1 favorite]








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