Domestic Spying: A New Report on U.S. Internet Surveillance

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Last December, I posted an article referencing some of the early concerns about Bush’s approval of domestic spying activities. At that time, Bush and Cheney were alleging that the briefings that Capitol Hill leaders got on his spying operation demonstrated clear evidence about how respectful they were being of the fundamental principles governing oversight, checks and balances, and advise and consent.

Rockefeller Complaint About Domestic Spying

However, as a counter to their claim of being responsible to oversight, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, publicly released a letter that he had written at some previous time that expressed serious concerns about the domestic spying program. His letter had been written to Richard Cheney in 2003, after he learned about the wiretapping without FISA court approval maneuver. The document released to the public was handwritten, because no one in the meeting was allowed to tell anyone else about plan, not even a typist. Rockefeller told Cheney he could not endorse the program. Further, he stated that he was keeping a sealed copy of the letter as proof of his disapproval. Not long afterward, there was a massive public outcry when information emerged about NSA operations at a major AT&T center in California, suspected of being part of a large program engaged in secretly spying upon the communications of private citizens.

Today, Salon has revealed that in a pivotal network operations center in St. Louis, AT&T has neen concealing yet another secret and highly secured room since 2002, where government work is being conducted, according to two former AT&T workers once employed at the center. In interviews with Salon, the former AT&T workers said that only government officials or AT&T employees with top-secret security clearance are admitted to the room, located inside AT&T’s facility in Bridgeton. The room’s tight security includes a biometric “mantrap” or highly sophisticated double door, secured with retinal and fingerprint scanners. The former workers say company supervisors told them that employees working inside the room were “monitoring network traffic” and that the room was being used by “a government agency.”The details provided by the two former workers about the Bridgeton room bear the distinctive earmarks of an operation run by the National Security Agency, according to two intelligence experts with extensive knowledge of the NSA and its operations. In addition to the room’s high-tech security, those intelligence experts told Salon, the exhaustive vetting process AT&T workers were put through before being granted top-secret security clearance points to the NSA, an agency known as much for its intense secrecy as its technological sophistication.

The disturbing importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the chief support for all of AT&T’s internet operations. According to one of the former workers, Bridgeton serves as the technical command center from which the company manages all the routers and circuits carrying the company’s domestic and international Internet traffic. Therefore, Bridgeton could be instrumental for conducting surveillance or collecting data. AT&T’s Bridgeton location would give the NSA potential access to an enormous amount of internet data. At the present time, the telecommunications giant controls approximately one-third of all bandwidth carrying internet traffic to homes and businesses all across the United States.

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