Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NSA's Narus Knows and Sees All

Ok, it's been confusing to try and follow the USA Today story that the "National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth." As USA Today has it, only Qwest denied the NSA access to the records, but now Verizon and BellSouth have issued denials, or perhaps they're better described as non-denial denials.

The thing is, from what is already known about the NSA wiretapping we can see that the telcos don't need to turn over their records. According to the whistleblower lawsuit against AT&T, which the government is trying to put a stop to altogether, AT&T has allowed the NSA to hardwire into the system to collect the data themselves, and they are able to comb through not only every telephone call, but also every web-browsing session, every email, the works. Do follow me on the few articles (H/T to Hornet)...
Administration cites state secrets in bid to derail spy lawsuit
... The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed in federal court here against AT&T Inc. over its alleged involvement in the surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The federal government is invoking the "state secrets privilege" in arguing that the lawsuit must be thrown out because it threatens to divulge information that is deemed critical to national security. ...

Wiretap Whistle-Blower's Account

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein has come forward to support the EFF's lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged complicity in the NSA's electronic surveillance. Here, Wired News publishes Klein's public statement
... 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. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco" dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the "splitter" cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world.

One of the 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. The company's advertising boasts that its technology "captures comprehensive customer usage data ... and transforms it into actionable information.... (It) provides complete visibility for all internet applications."

My job required me to connect new circuits to the "splitter" cabinet and get them up and running. While working on a particularly difficult one with a technician back East, I learned that other such "splitter" cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

What is the significance and why is it important to bring these facts to light?
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. ...(more)
What is a Narus? Take a look at what Forbes had to say about Narus in 1999...
Narus knows what you are doing on the network
Forbes: For example, if someone in San Francisco makes a video conference call to New York and London, the probe captures the exact length of the call and then sends a log file, also known as a call data record (CDR) back to the database, which is housed on Narus' servers. The CDR is then used for billing purposes.

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. "The idea is that a guy who sends only E-mails shouldn't be billed as much as the guy who is streaming video off the Internet," asks Stone.

Narus' software has the ability to capture thousands of such CDRs simultaneously. Soon it will be able to capture millions of these CDRs in real time, making it ideal for the super-fast fiber optic networks being built by companies like Qwest Communications qwst (nasdaq: qwst) and Level One levl (nasdaq: levl). ...(more)
If the AT&T whistleblower is correct, and it's a pretty safe bet he is because this administration is trying its damnedest to have the whole case thrown out on national security state secrets grounds, then the NSA is capable of monitoring everything we do online and over the phone. That would explain the telco's statements that they have not provided any records to the NSA, they've just opened the entire network & let the NSA gather its own records.

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