What the NSA is Doing

WHAT THE NSA IS DOING….A couple of months ago the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class action suit against AT&T for violating its customers’ privacy by cooperating with the NSA’s domestic spying program. On Friday, they released a statement from a former AT&T technician named Mark Klein who saw what the NSA did in AT&T’s San Francisco office:

In January 2003, I…saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public’s phone calls are routed….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.

….One of the [design] documents 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….[Later] I learned that other such “splitter” cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

….Despite what we are hearing, and considering the public track record of this administration, I simply do not believe their claims that the NSA’s spying program is really limited to foreign communications or is otherwise consistent with the NSA’s charter or with FISA. 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.

The Narus STA is designed to analyze internet traffic so that service providers can create specially configured billing plans for their customers. But it’s also highly customizable for other uses, as outlined in this old Forbes profile:

Want to know what Narus software can do? It can find out how much time you spent on the network, how many E-mails you sent, how long you played online video games, how many files you uploaded or downloaded and what web sites you accessed.

….It is not just billing, it is much more than billing,” says [Narus president Mark] Stone….Gartner Group senior analyst Chris Ransom is duly impressed by this vision, and points out that there is a critical difference between Narus and all the other companies competing in the marketplace. “Utilization of the data from a marketing and sales point of view is an extremely powerful selling point,” says Ransom.

Note: “Marketing and sales” = data mining. More to come on this, I’m sure.