Wednesday, June 21, 2006
AT&T Sure Loves Spying On Its Custoes
has added another chapter to Government spying on Americans, it seems.

June 21, 2006 | In a pivotal network operations center in metropolitan St. Louis, AT&T has maintained a secret, 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.

"It was very hush-hush," said one of the former AT&T workers. "We were told there was going to be some government personnel working in that room. We were told, 'Do not try to speak to them. Do not hamper their work. Do not impede anything that they're doing.'"

The importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the "common backbone" 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.

If the NSA is using the secret room, it would appear to bolster recent allegations that the agency has been conducting broad and possibly illegal domestic surveillance and data collection operations authorized by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. AT&T's Bridgeton location would give the NSA potential access to an enormous amount of Internet data -- currently, the telecom giant controls approximately one-third of all bandwidth carrying Internet traffic to homes and businesses across the United States.

The nature of the government operation using the Bridgeton room remains unknown, and could be legal. Aside from surveillance or data collection, the room could conceivably house a federal law enforcement operation, a classified research project, or some other unknown government operation.

The former workers, both of whom were approached by and spoke separately to Salon, asked to remain anonymous because they still work in the telecommunications industry. They both left the company in good standing. Neither worked inside the secured room or has access to classified information. One worked in AT&T's broadband division until 2003. The other asked to be identified only as a network technician, and worked at Bridgeton for about three years.


This is all so entirely creepy, to me. Top secret government rooms inside of my ISP are not something that makes me, like, run through a field of dandelions, dancing.

We need to keep these stories coming. Silence means this administration has won.

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