An Analysis of Warrantless Wiretapping – Part I by Richard Scott

by Richard Scott
Dandelion Salad
originally published by Boiling Frogs Post
8 November 2009

Definition of Terms & Analysis of Klein’s Affidavit

This piece will attempt to analyze the US Government’s Warrantless Wiretap Program utilizing open source information including A.T.&T. Whistleblower Mark Klein’s EFF affidavit, podcasts by James Bamford and Russell Tice available on this site, and comparisons with similar surveillance networks currently in use in Great Britain and China. The rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the past thirty years has been touted as a mechanism of information freedom and open societies, a global clearinghouse for political and personal empowerment and a panacea against the forces of repression and censorship. What I will attempt to show in this piece is how those lofty goals remain largely unrealized and how governments, under the guise of “security” are, in fact, using the Internet as a new, overarching and suffocating surveillance state to monitor, compile and track the personal and private lives of virtually everyone who uses modern telecommunications in any form. I will attempt to demonstrate that, because of the erection of this surveillance regime, privacy of communications is essentially dead. I will also attempt to show how information gathered under this program can be used to populate private corporation databases and affect the general populace through credit reports, employment opportunities and the convergence of private and government databases.

Let me begin by defining some terms to help the reader understand the overall scope of Warrantless Wiretaps. These terms will give the reader an idea of the masses of data being monitored:

The basic building block circuit for our purposes is called a DS-3. Each DS-3 contains 28 T-1s, each containing 24 voice channels. So 1 DS-3 equals 24 times 28 or 672 voice channels. These DS-3s are multiplexed to the Optical Channel level and have a numerical value of 1. Therefore, an Optical Channel or OC-3 circuit contains 3 DS-3s capacity or 2016 voice channels. An OC-12 circuit contains 12 DS-3s or 8064 voice channels; an OC-48 circuit contains 48 DS-3s or 32,556 voice channels. These circuits are multiplexed to an OC-192 DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplex) level for long distance transport. What the last term means is anywhere from 24 to 36 OC-192 (192 DS-3s) modulated on a single fiber for long distance transport. So a single optic fiber can carry almost 5,000,000 individual phone channels at once. Most single mode fiber cables contain between 50 and 100 individual fibers providing a transmit and receive path for 25-50 OC-192 DWDM circuits. I am personally certified on equipment up to and including the OC-192 DWDM level.

Now we turn to Mark Klein’s EFF affidavit in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit, Hepting v A.T.&T. :

In it, Klein describes his tasks as an A.T.&T. data communications technician in general terms as well as a project he was tasked to perform at the A.T.&T. Central Office located in 611 Folsom St., San Francisco. He describes how he was charged with the installation, test and turn-up of optical hybrid splitters to tap off optical signals from an array of A.T.&T. and other OCC (Other Common Carrier) circuits for transport and analysis within secret rooms installed  in Central Offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Seattle, among others, for the National Security Agency. Inside these rooms, the traffic was routed through a Semantic Traffic Analyzer provided by Narus, an Israeli-owned company affiliated with Israel’s counterpart agency to the NSA, as documented by James Bamford in his podcast interview available on this site. It was also routed to the main NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, MD where it was stored for further data mining as part of the WWP. The splitter circuit diagrams are included on page 24 of the affidavit with the circuit cutover diagram visible on page 15. Of particular interest to me is the engineering document on page 17 of his affidavit, listing the Other Common Carriers leasing A.T.&T. facilities whose circuits and customers were also being monitored. It reads like a Who’s Who of major telecommunications IXCs (Inter-Exchange Carriers) including Qwest, Level3, Cable & Wireless, Global Crossing and a host of others. It also lists the size of each circuit routed to the NSA by it’s OC-x number as detailed above. Since Klein’s declaration only spotlights the West Coast central offices affected by this nationwide program, it is fair to assume it was also being carried out in corresponding offices on the East Coast as well.

The official justification offered by both the Bush and Obama administrations is that these circuits were only used for overseas traffic and, therefore, within the NSA’s lawful mandate to monitor overseas communications. The fallacy of that argument is that all the offices mentioned, while having some overseas circuits originating from them, primarily contained domestic telecommunications traffic. If the NSA wished to stay within its official mandate, this program could have been accomplished with far less cost by placing the NSA rooms with their equipment at overseas cable terminal offices such as the Transpacific Cable Terminal at Los Osos, near Morro Bay, CA.

Both Bamford and Tice, in their podcast interviews, speak of the two massive new NSA data storage facilities being built in Utah and Texas. Those locations are where all this information will be stored once they come online. Now consider the outsourcing of intelligence work to private contractors and security firms like CACI, Choicepoint and others who specialize in data mining from public sources as well and you begin to see the scope and impact of this program on ordinary citizens. Consider, also, Bamford and Tice’s revelations of a parallel National Telecommunications Traffic Control Center being constructed at Fort Meade identical to A.T.&T.‘s National Traffic Control Center in Bedminster, NJ. The eventual merging and sharing of this information between government and corporate entities is almost inevitable. Remember, as Benito Mussolini defined it:

Fascism is the convergence of governmental and corporate power.

So the questions I have are this.

1. Why is such an overarching, intrusive, draconian wiretap program necessary?

2. What mechanisms are there in place to prevent government-sourced private information from being shared with corporate entities?

3. Is the NSA positioning itself to take control of all telecommunications in the event of a national emergency?

4. What national emergency might provide a trigger mechanism for the assumption of such control?


Richard Scott discusses Warrantless Wiretapping on the Jeff Farias Show

Spying on Americans: Obama Endorses Bush Era Warrantless Wiretapping by Tom Burghardt

The Surveillance State and Domestic Spying in the Obama Era

Domestic Spying on Dandelion Salad

6 thoughts on “An Analysis of Warrantless Wiretapping – Part I by Richard Scott

  1. Pingback: A Real American Hero, Mark Klein: Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine… and Fighting It « Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: An Analysis of Warrantless Wiretapping – Part II by Richard Scott « Dandelion Salad

  3. Pingback: Richard Scott discusses Warrantless Wiretapping on the Jeff Farias Show « Dandelion Salad

  4. Here’s more.

    In August of 2006 I left my last paying job. I was a tier 3 system administrator for Infohighway Communications, an ISP/CLEC in NYC. Infohighway was my first real chance to see the telecommunications industry up close. The company was contracted to wire entire buildings for digital voice and data traffic.

    ALL tenants for no less than 800 buildings in NYC were going to be forced to use Infohighway for their in-wall voice over IP phone systems and data communications without their knowledge or consent. And that was in 2006. Infohighway also had points of presence (“POP”s) in Long Island, Washington DC, Westchester, and were in the process of expanding into Boston and Philadelphia when I left. That was three years ago and I am sure they have only grown more powerful.

    As I became aware with the looming presence of CALEA just how easy it was to tap a VOIP call from the administrative level, I became more and more heartsick. It’s as easy as copying a file on a system if you know where to go. There was a more formal procedure in place within the software if actual law enforcement was to be involved, but for the purposes of diagnostic testing it was pathetically easy to listen in on any particular line. Not even a “butt set” and patch into the board would be involved anymore – this was all digital. To be sure, I could have set up system auditing that would monitor if anyone copied or downloaded files off of one of our Broadsoft VOIP servers, but the likelihood of such auditing staying on the machine was low – performance was also an issue here and auditing causes system overhead. I could easily see management shutting any auditing I would implement down for that reason, and I would have been unable to stop them in my position.

    I left Infohighway in part because I would not have been able to sleep at night knowing that I was pulling down a salary to enable this corporation’s ability to spy on my fellow American citizens. It broke my heart to do this. I am an old school geek. Ever since I first saw it in 1982 I have been fascinated by the technology used to build and maintain the Internet. The Unix suite of operating systems which was originally designed to facilitate global communication and information sharing was being twisted into this tool to violate the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens of my country. I couldn’t deal with this, and I was glad to leave.

    This technology is still out there and Infohighway is only one of many corporations using it. I will not work in that part of the industry again until the warrantless wiretapping issue is appropriately dealt with and revoked. I refuse to be a part of it.

      • My posting is in part to thank Richard Scott for his courage and integrity and let him and all people like him know that we are not alone. The power is in our hands. We have the ability to change things with our choices although it may not seem like much at the time, every person who does the right thing strikes a blow for real democracy and real freedom.

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