Over the weekend James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times — who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for this story on the NSA gaining the cooperation of U.S. telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to customer data — mentioned this detail from 2007:
In Virginia, a telecommunications consultant reported, Verizon had set up a dedicated fibre-optic line running from New Jersey to Quantico, Va., home to a large military base, allowing government officials to gain access to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations centre.
We recently re-upped this 2006 report by James Bamford of Wired — who wrote the book on the nation’s premier covert intelligence gathering organisation — detailing how the NSA hired two companies with ties to Israeli intelligence to bug the communications of AT&T.
That means that for more than five years it has been public knowledge that the America’s two biggest telecoms appear to be handing over endless reams of customer data to the government.
The Verizon-NSA fibre optic connection came from a class action lawsuit brought by a former AT&T engineer who worked on a proposal to give the the NSA access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through an AT&T network centre in Bedminster, N.J.
The Israeli hardware, which can record anything that comes through an internet protocol network, was discovered by former AT&T engineer and whistleblower Mark Klein and confirmed by former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake.
Whistleblower William Binney says that ever since 9/11 the NSA has been hoarding electronic data — phone calls, GPS information, emails, social media, banking and travel records, entire government databases — and analyses, in real time, “all of the attributes that any individual has” in addition to making networks of connections between individuals.
Binney, one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history, wrote the code for original program, and quit after 32 years in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”
Snowden leaked classified files to reveal that the vast majority of human communications — including data from Google, Apple, Facebook, Skype, and YouTube — are “automatically ingested without targeting.”
Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsburg described the disclosures as the most important leak in American history.
But, as of now, they haven’t truly changed anything.
From Bamford in Reuters today:
Designed to run at exaflop speed, executing a million trillion operations per second, it will be able to sift through enormous quantities of data – for example, all the phone numbers dialed in the United States every day.
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