Gag Me With An RJ-45In the ongoing investigation into the NSA Spying Scandal, WIRED News the other day leaked the documents of former AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Kline. Fearing the the documents would be scrubbed for violating potential court orders, I snagged a copy of the damaging PDF and took a good long gander at it. Despite the fact that one of the entrances to "Secret Room 641A" being accompanied by a ramp (for the convenience of any NSA agents confined to wheel chairs), the results are not pretty and not just for AT&T:
One of the devices in the "Cabinet Naming" list is particularly revealing as to the purpose of the "secret room": a Narus STA 6400. Narus is a 7-year-old company which, because of its particular niche, appeals not only to businessmen (it is backed by AT&T, JP Morgan and Intel, among others) but also to police, military and intelligence officials. Last November 13-14, for instance, Narus was the "Lead Sponsor" for a technical conference held in McLean, Virginia, titled "Intelligence Support Systems for Lawful Interception and Internet Surveillance." Police officials, FBI and DEA agents, and major telecommunications companies eager to cash in on the "war on terror" had gathered in the hometown of the CIA to discuss their special problems. Among the attendees were AT&T, BellSouth, MCI, Sprint and Verizon. Narus founder, Dr. Ori Cohen, gave a keynote speech. So what does the Narus STA 6400 do?
Interestingly enough, I had a general idea what it did before the actual documents explained it to me:
"The (Narus) STA Platform consists of standalone traffic analyzers that collect network and customer usage information in real time directly from the message.... These analyzers sit on the message pipe into the ISP cloud rather than tap into each router or ISP device" ... A Narus press release (1 Dec., 1999) also boasts that its Semantic Traffic Analysis (STA) technology "captures comprehensive customer usage data ... and transforms it into actionable information.... (It) is the only technology that provides complete visibility for all internet applications."
Translation? It seems to me that the STA 6400 sniffs everything coming and going on the fiber optic lines down to the nitty gritty but innocently -- semantic analysis of e-mail traffic, Usenet scouring, online gaming, and whether or not some random asshat is leeching way too many gigabytes of porn and pirated movies off E-Donkey in a fucking month, which can allow network heads at ISPs to use the data to either improve services, patch up bottle necks, measure loads during high volumes of peak network usage, and find out which subscribers are overloading and stressing the network too much (which usually results in a warning letter being sent to the subscriber to either tone down their file-sharing or find another ISP). In this regard, the STA 6400 can be very beneficial.
However, since the propeller on my tin hat has a tendency to spin quite naturally these days despite it being pointed downward to keep me grounded and to improve oxygen intake from all the bullshit this country loves to ladle upon us everyday, it didn't take me all but a few seconds to wonder that if the NSA is ordering these things installed on a wide basis in the guise of national security, then I'm led to believe that what the Narus STA 6400 is capable of can be taken to pretty nefarious extremes -- the meticulous spying and logging anything and everything that travels across the fiber optic lines, up to and including breaking and/or deciphering many encryption schemes. It all depends on the firmware -- is the firmware the stock firmware developed by Naras techs that innocently monitors data and customer usage information for improvement purposes or catching network abuse ... or did the NSA request custom firmware to be developed for some double super background secret purpose?
Considering everything that comes out of Bush's mouth has been the farthest thing from the truth, I side with Klein suggesting that the entire internet itself is being used as one big NSA spying farm and suspect the latter scenario because, Shrub's incompetence be damned, I doubt the NSA would be so stupid to assume terrorists wouldn't communicate without using encryption.
I also doubt catching terrorists is the NSA's true goal here because, by spying on every single scrap of information passing over the fiber optics and logging the shit out of it (potentially breaking encryption, too), then what we've got here could be Project ECHELON on steroids -- "actionable data" to plug up leaks, spy on journalists talking to government whistle-blowers, snagging information for that the NSA could turn over to government or corporatations for usage in espionage -- be it domestically or globally, etc.
If it does actually catch another terrorist plot, that's merely a bonus -- a convenient bonus that The Decider will use as a carte blanche justification for it all. It all depends on if The Decider has decided the Constitution is at worst a "goddamned peice of paper" or at best "not a suicide pact" and, since those ideas have long been echoing amongst the catacombs of Freeperville over the past few years, I'd wager The Decider has decided just that.
But the documents also mention a laundry list of ISPs and telephone companies that attended ISS World 2003 and could be just as criminally compliant as AT&T -- corporations such as Earthlink and Comcast to name but only two. In fact, the leaking of these documents and detail of them lead me to suspect every telecommunications corporation and internet service provider. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and Worldcom might be the largest of the lot, but even little dogs like Talk America have to purchase or use their equipment and infrastructure in the competitive market place. Thus, even if they may not be complying with Bush and the NSA's spying gig as an independent entities, they're doing so by proxy automatically just because the big dogs rule the pound.
We haven't seen the last of this scandal nor the class actions lawsuits that'll follow.