The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in 8 US Cities and the Link to AT&T, Israel, and the Mormon Freemasons

June 26, 2018

Compiled by Lisa Phillips of OpDeepState.com

The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in 8 US Cities

The Wiretap Rooms

June 25, 2018

by Ryan Gallagher, Henrik Moltke of the Intercept.com

The secrets are hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

Much has previously been reported about the NSA’s surveillance programs. But few details have been disclosed about the physical infrastructure that enables the spying. Last year, The Intercept highlighted a likely NSA facility in New York City’s Lower Manhattan. Now, we are revealing for the first time a series of other buildings across the U.S. that appear to serve a similar function, as critical parts of one of the world’s most powerful electronic eavesdropping systems, hidden in plain sight.

“It’s eye-opening and ominous the extent to which this is happening right here on American soil,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It puts a face on surveillance that we could never think of before in terms of actual buildings and actual facilities in our own cities, in our own backyards.”

There are hundreds of AT&T-owned properties scattered across the U.S. The eight identified by The Intercept serve a specific function, processing AT&T customers’ data and also carrying large quantities of data from other internet providers. They are known as “backbone” and “peering” facilities.

While network operators would usually prefer to send data through their own networks, often a more direct and cost-efficient path is provided by other providers’ infrastructure. If one network in a specific area of the country is overloaded with data traffic, another operator with capacity to spare can sell or exchange bandwidth, reducing the strain on the congested region. This exchange of traffic is called “peering” and is an essential feature of the internet.

Because of AT&T’s position as one of the U.S.’s leading telecommunications companies, it has a large network that is frequently used by other providers to transport their customers’ data. Companies that “peer” with AT&T include the American telecommunications giants Sprint, Cogent Communications, and Level 3, as well as foreign companies such as Sweden’s Telia, India’s Tata Communications, Italy’s Telecom Italia, and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.

AT&T currently boasts 19,500 points of presence  (“An access point that connects to the internet, located inside a facility that contains routers, servers, and other networking equipment”) in 149 countries where internet traffic is exchanged. But only eight of the company’s facilities in the U.S. offer direct access to its “common backbone” – key data routes that carry vast amounts of emails, internet chats, social media updates, and internet browsing sessions. These eight locations are among the most important in AT&T’s global network. They are also highly valued by the NSA, documents indicate.

The data exchange between AT&T and other networks initially takes place outside AT&T’s control, sources said, at third-party data centers that are owned and operated by companies such as California’s Equinix. But the data is then routed – in whole or in part – through the eight AT&T buildings, where the NSA taps into it. By monitoring what it calls the “peering circuits” at the eight sites, the spy agency can collect “not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies,” according to Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who worked with the company for 22 years. It is an efficient point to conduct internet surveillance, Klein said, “because the peering links, by the nature of the connections, are liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year.”

Christopher Augustine, a spokesperson for the NSA, said in a statement that the agency could “neither confirm nor deny its role in alleged classified intelligence activities.” Augustine declined to answer questions about the AT&T facilities, but said that the NSA “conducts its foreign signals intelligence mission under the legal authorities established by Congress and is bound by both policy and law to protect U.S. persons’ privacy and civil liberties.”

Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesperson, said that AT&T was “required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement entities by complying with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests, and other legal requirements.” He added that the company provides “voluntary assistance to law enforcement when a person’s life is in danger and in other immediate, emergency situations. In all cases, we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we act in compliance with the law.”

Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications, told The Intercept that he had no knowledge of the surveillance at the eight AT&T buildings, but said he believed “the core premise that the NSA or some other agency would like to look at traffic … at an AT&T facility.” He said he suspected that the surveillance is likely carried out on “a limited basis,” due to technical and cost constraints. If the NSA were trying to “ubiquitously monitor” data passing across AT&T’s networks, Schaeffer added, he would be “extremely concerned.”

Sprint, Telia, Tata Communications, Telecom Italia, and Deutsche Telekom did not respond to requests for comment. CenturyLink, which owns Level 3, said it would not discuss “matters of national security.”


The maps The Intercept used to identify the internet surveillance hubs.

Maps: NSA/AT&T

The eight locations are featured on a top-secret NSA map, which depicts U.S. facilities that the agency relies upon for one of its largest surveillance programs, code-named FAIRVIEW. AT&T is the only company involved in FAIRVIEW, which was first established in 1985, according to NSA documents, and involves tapping into international telecommunications cables, routers, and switches.

In 2003, the NSA launched new internet mass surveillance methods, which were pioneered under the FAIRVIEW program. The methods were used by the agency to collect – within a few months – some 400 billion records about people’s internet communications and activity, the New York Times previously reported. FAIRVIEW was also forwarding more than 1 million emails every day to a “keyword selection system” at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters.

Central to the internet spying are eight “peering link router complex” sites, which are pinpointed on the top-secret NSA map. The locations of the sites mirror maps of AT&T’s networks, obtained by The Intercept from public records, which show “backbone node with peering” facilities in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

One of the AT&T maps contains unique codes individually identifying the addresses of the facilities in each of the cities.

Among the pinpointed buildings, there is a nuclear blast-resistant, windowless facility in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; in Washington, D.C., a fortress-like, concrete structure less than half a mile south of the U.S. Capitol; in Chicago, an earthquake-resistant skyscraper in the West Loop Gate area; in Atlanta, a 429-foot art deco structure in the heart of the city’s downtown district; and in Dallas, a cube-like building with narrow windows and large vents on its exterior, located in the Old East district.

Elsewhere, on the west coast of the U.S., there are three more facilities: in downtown Los Angeles, a striking concrete tower near the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Staples Center, two blocks from the most important internet exchange in the region; in Seattle, a 15-story building with blacked-out windows and reinforced concrete foundations, near the city’s waterfront; and in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, a building where it was previously claimed that the NSA was monitoring internet traffic from a secure room on the sixth floor.

The peering sites – otherwise known in AT&T parlance as “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs – were developed following the internet boom in the mid- to late 1990s. By March 2009, the NSA’s documents say it was tapping into “peering circuits at the eight SNRCs.”

The facilities’ purpose was to bolster AT&T’s network, improving its reliability and enabling future growth. They were developed under the leadership of an Iranian-American innovator and engineer named Hossein Eslambolchi, who was formerly AT&T’s chief technology officer and president of AT&T Labs, a division of the company that focuses on research and development.

Eslambolchi told The Intercept that the project to set up the facilities began after AT&T asked him to help create “the largest internet protocol network in the world.” He obliged and began implementing his network design by placing large Cisco routers inside former AT&T phone switching facilities across the U.S. When planning the project, he said he divided AT&T’s network into different regions, “and in every quadrant I will have what I will call an SNRC.”

During his employment with AT&T, Eslambolchi said he had to take a polygraph test, and he obtained a government security clearance. “I was involved in very, very top, heavy-duty projects for a few of these three-letter agencies,” he said, in an apparent reference to U.S. intelligence agencies. “They all loved me.”

He would not confirm or deny the exact locations of the eight peering sites identified by The Intercept or discuss the classified work he carried out while with the company. “You put a gun to my head,” he said, “I’m not going to tell you.”

Other former AT&T employees, however, were more forthcoming.

A former senior member of AT&T’s technical staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, confirmed with “100 percent” certainty the locations of six of the eight peering facilities identified by The Intercept. The source, citing direct knowledge of the facilities and their function, verified the addresses of the buildings in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

A second former AT&T employee confirmed the locations of the remaining two sites, in Chicago and San Francisco. “I worked with all of them,” said Philip Long, who was employed by AT&T for more than two decades as a technician servicing its networks. Long’s work with AT&T was carried out mostly in California, but he said his job required him to be in contact with the company’s other facilities across the U.S. In about 2005, Long recalled, he received orders to move “every internet backbone circuit I had in northern California” through the San Francisco AT&T building identified by The Intercept as one of the eight NSA spy hubs. Long said that, at the time, he felt suspicious of the changes, because they were unusual and unnecessary. “We thought we were routing our circuits so that they could grab all the data,” he said. “We thought it was the government listening.” He retired from his job with AT&T in 2014.

A third former AT&T employee reviewed The Intercept’s research and said he believed it accurately identified all eight of the facilities. “The site data certainly seems correct,” said Thomas Saunders, who worked as a data networking consultant for AT&T in New York City between 1995 and 2004. “Those nodes aren’t going to move.”

Photo: Henrik Moltke

In estimated 99 percent of the world’s intercontinental internet traffic is transported through hundreds of giant fiber optic cables hidden beneath the world’s oceans. A large portion of the data and communications that pass across the cables is routed at one point through the U.S., partly because of the country’s location – situated between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – and partly because of the pre-eminence of American internet companies, which provide services to people globally.

The NSA calls this predicament “home field advantage” – a kind of geographic good fortune. “A target’s phone call, email, or chat will take the cheapest path, not the physically most direct path,” one agency document explains. “Your target’s communications could easily be flowing into and through the U.S.”

Once the internet traffic arrives on U.S. soil, it is processed by American companies. And that is why, for the NSA, AT&T is so indispensable. The company claims it has one of the world’s most powerful networks, the largest of its kind in the U.S. AT&T routinely handles masses of emails, phone calls, and internet chats. As of March 2018, some 197 petabytes of data – the equivalent of more than 49 trillion pages of text, or 60 billion average-sized mp3 files – traveled across its networks every business day.

The NSA documents, which come from the trove provided to The Intercept by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, describe AT&T as having been “aggressively involved” in aiding the agency’s surveillance programs. One example of this appears to have taken place at the eight facilities under a classified initiative called SAGUARO.

As part of SAGUARO, AT&T developed a strategy to help the NSA electronically eavesdrop on internet data from the “peering circuits” at the eight sites, which were said to connect to the “common backbone,” major data routes carrying internet traffic.

The company worked with the NSA to rank communications flowing through its networks on the basis of intelligence value, prioritizing data depending on which country it was derived from, according to a top-secret agency document.

NSA diagrams reveal that after it collects data from AT&T’s “access links” and “peering partners,” it is sent to a “centralized processing facility” code-named PINECONE, located somewhere in New Jersey. Inside the PINECONE facility, there is a secure space in which there is both NSA-controlled and AT&T-controlled equipment. Internet traffic passes through an AT&T “distribution box” to two NSA systems. From there, the data is then transferred about 200 miles southwest to its final destination: NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland.

At the Maryland compound, the communications collected from AT&T’s networks are integrated into powerful systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, which the NSA uses to analyze metadata – such as the “to” and “from” parts of emails, and the times and dates they were sent. The communications obtained from AT&T are also made accessible through a tool named XKEYSCORE, which NSA employees use to search through the full contents of emails, instant messenger chats, web-browsing histories, webcam photos, information about downloads from online services, and Skype sessions.

The NSA’s primary mission is to gather foreign intelligence. The agency has broad legal powers to monitor emails, phone calls, and other forms of correspondence as they are being transported across the U.S., and it can compel companies such as AT&T to install surveillance equipment within their networks.

Under a Ronald Reagan-era presidential directive – Executive Order 12333 – the NSA has what it calls “transit authority,” which it says enables it to eavesdrop on “communications which originate and terminate in foreign countries, but traverse U.S. territory.” That could include, for example, an email sent by a person in France to a person in Mexico, which on its way to its destination was routed through a server in California. According to the NSA’s documents, it was using AT&T’s networks as of March 2013 to gather some 60 million foreign-to-foreign emails every day, 1.8 billion per month.

Without an individualized court order, it is illegal for the NSA to spy on communications that are wholly domestic, such as emails sent back and forth between two Americans living in Texas. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the agency began eavesdropping on Americans’ international calls and emails that were passing between the U.S. and other countries. That practice was exposed by the New York Times in 2005 and triggered what became known as the “warrantless wiretapping” scandal.

Critics argued that the surveillance of Americans’ international communications was illegal, because the NSA had carried it out without obtaining warrants from a judge and had instead acted on the orders of President George W. Bush. In 2008, Congress weighed into the dispute and controversially authorized elements of the warrantless wiretapping program by enacting Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, or FISA. The new law allowed the NSA to continue sweeping up Americans’ international communications without a warrant, so long as it did so “incidentally” while it was targeting foreigners overseas – for instance, if it was monitoring people in Pakistan, and they were talking with Americans in the U.S. by phone, email, or through an internet chat service.

Within AT&T’s networks, there is filtering equipment designed to separate foreign and domestic internet data before it is passed to the NSA, the agency’s documents show. Filtering technology is often used by internet providers for security reasons, enabling them to keep tabs on problems with their networks, block out spam, or monitor hacking attacks. But the same tools can be used for government surveillance.

“You can essentially trick the routers into redirecting a small subset of traffic you really care about, which you can monitor in more detail,” said Jennifer Rexford, a computer scientist who worked for AT&T Labs between 1996 and 2005.

According to the NSA’s documents, it programs its surveillance systems to focus on particular IP addresses – a set of numbers that identify a computer – associated with foreign countries. A classified 2012 memo describes the agency’s efforts to use IP addresses to home in on internet data passing between the U.S. and particular “regions of interest,” including Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. But this process is not an exact science, as people can use privacy or anonymity tools to change or spoof their IP addresses. A person in Israel could use privacy software to masquerade as if they were accessing the internet in the U.S. Likewise, an internet user in the U.S. could make it appear as if they were online in Israel. It is unclear how effective the NSA’s systems are at detecting such anomalies.

In October 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the surveillance operations carried out under Section 702 of FISA, found that there were “technological limitations” with the agency’s internet eavesdropping equipment. It was “generally incapable of distinguishing” between some kinds of data, the court stated. As a consequence, Judge John D. Bates ruled, the NSA had been intercepting the communications of “non-target United States persons and persons in the United States,” violating Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling, which was declassified in August 2013, concluded that the agency had acquired some 13 million “internet transactions” during one six-month period, and had unlawfully gathered “tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications” each year.

The root of the issue was that the NSA’s technology was not only targeting communications sent to and from specific surveillance targets. Instead, the agency was sweeping up people’s emails if they had merely mentioned particular information about surveillance targets.

A top-secret NSA memo about the court’s ruling, which has not been disclosed before, explained that the agency was collecting people’s messages en masse if a single one were found to contain a “selector” – like an email address or phone number – that featured on a target list.

“One example of this is when a user of a webmail service accesses her inbox; if the inbox contains one email message that contains an NSA tasked selector, NSA will acquire a copy of the entire inbox, not just the individual email message that contains the tasked selector,” the memo stated.

The court’s ruling left the agency with two options: shut down the spying based on mentions of targets completely, or ensure that protections were put in place to stop the unlawfully collected communications from being reviewed. The NSA chose the latter option, and created a “cautionary banner” that warned its analysts not to read particular messages unless they could confirm that they had been lawfully obtained.

But the cautionary banner did not solve the problem. The NSA’s analysts continued to access the same data repositories to search, unlawfully, for information on Americans. In April 2017, the agency publicly acknowledged these violations, which it described as “inadvertent compliance incidents.” It said that it would no longer use surveillance programs authorized under Section 702 of FISA to harvest messages that mentioned its targets, citing “technological constraints, United States person privacy interests, and certain difficulties in implementation.”

The messages that the NSA had unlawfully collected were swept up using a method of surveillance known as “upstream,” which the agency still deploys for other surveillance programs authorized under both Section 702 of FISA and Executive Order 12333. The upstream method involves tapping into communications as they are passing across internet networks – precisely the kind of electronic eavesdropping that appears to have taken place at the eight locations identified by The Intercept.

Photo: Frank Heath

The AT&T building in Atlanta was originally constructed in the 1920s as the main telephone exchange for the city’s downtown area. The art deco structure, made of limestone, was designed to be the largest in the city at the time at 25 stories tall. However, due to the Great Depression, plans were scaled back and at first, it only had six stories. Between 1947 and 1963, the building was upgraded to host 14 stories, and a large brown microwave tower – visible for miles – was also added. A profile of the building on the History Atlanta website notes that it contains “operations, phone exchanges and other communications equipment for AT&T.”

Photo: Frank Heath

NSA and AT&T maps point to the Atlanta facility as being one of eight “peering” hubs that process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. One former AT&T employee – who spoke on condition of anonymity – confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Information provided by a second former AT&T employee adds to the evidence linking the Atlanta building to NSA surveillance. Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, alleged in 2006 that the company had allowed the NSA to install surveillance equipment in some of its network hubs. An AT&T facility in Atlanta was one of the spy sites, according to documents Klein presented in a court case over the alleged spying. The Atlanta facility was equipped with “splitter” equipment, which was used to make copies of internet traffic as AT&T’s networks processed it. The copied data would then be diverted to “SG3” equipment – a reference to “Study Group 3” – which was a code name AT&T used for activities related to NSA surveillance, according to evidence in the Klein case.

The Atlanta facility is likely of strategic importance for the NSA. The site is the closest major AT&T internet routing center to Miami, according to the NSA and AT&T maps. From undersea cables that come aground at Miami, huge flows of data pass between the U.S. and South America. It is probable that much of that data is routed through the Atlanta facility as it is being sent to and from the U.S. In recent years, the NSA has extensively targeted several Latin American countries – such as Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela – for surveillance.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

Like many other major telecommunications hubs built during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Chicago AT&T building was designed amid the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. The 538-foot skyscraper, located in the West Loop Gate area of the city, was completed in 1971. There are windows at both the top and bottom of the vast concrete structure, but 18 of its 28 floors are windowless.According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the facility handles much of the city’s phone and internet traffic and is equipped with banks of routers, servers, and switching systems. “This building touches every single resident of the city,” Jim Wilson, an AT&T area manager, told the newspaper in 2016.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

One of the building’s architects, John Augur Holabird, said in a 1998 interview that it housed “a big switchboard.” He added: “In case the atomic bomb hits Milwaukee, you’ll be happy to know your telephone line will still go through even though the rest of us are wiped out. And that’s what that building was for.”10 South Canal Street originally contained a million-gallon oil tank, turbine generators, and a water well, so that it could continue to function for more than two weeks without electricity or water from the city, according to Illinois broadcaster WBEZ. The building is “anchored in bedrock, which helps support the weight of the equipment inside, and gives it extra resistance to bomb blasts or earthquakes,” WBEZ reported.

Today, the facility contains six large V-16 yellow Caterpillar generators that can provide backup electricity in the event of a power failure, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Inside the skyscraper, AT&T stores some 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel, enough to run the generators for 40 days.NSA and AT&T maps point to the Chicago facility as being one of the “peering” hubs, which process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. Philip Long, who was employed by AT&T for more than two decades as a technician servicing its networks, confirmed that the Chicago site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Photo: Mike Osborne

This AT&T building is a fortified, cube-like structure, located in the Old East area of Dallas, not far from Baylor University Medical Center. Built in 1961, it is a light yellow-brown color with a granite foundation. Large vents are visible on the exterior of the building, as are several narrow windows, many of which appear to have been blacked out or covered in a reflective privacy glass.

The 4211 Bryan Street facility is located next to other AT&T-owned buildings, including a towering telephone routing complex that was first built in 1904. A piece about the telephone hub in the Dallas Observer described it as “an imposing, creepy building” that is “known in some circles as The Great Wall of Beige.”

Photo: Mike Osborne

According to the Central Office website, which profiles telecommunications buildings across the U.S., the Dallas telephone hub is “the main regional tandem and AT&T for long distance and toll services in the Dallas Texas region.” Today, the building also has “major fiber connections to Plano, Irving, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, Abilene, Houston and Austin,” the website adds.

NSA and AT&T maps point to the 4211 Bryan Street facility as being one of the “peering” hubs, which process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. A former AT&T employee confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

At the time of its construction in 1961, the AT&T building known as the Madison Complex was the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles. It has since been dwarfed by a number of corporate office skyscrapers in the surrounding Financial District.

Located between Chinatown and the Staples Center, the fortress-like structure is one of the largest telephone central offices in the U.S. “The theoretical number of telephone lines that can be served from this office are 1.3 million and this office also serves as a foreign exchange carrier to neighboring area codes,” according to the Central Office, a website that profiles U.S. telecommunications hubs.

“Untitled, or Bell Communications Around the Globe”. Mural by Anthony Heinsbergen (1961) on the West side of 420 South Grand Ave, La.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

The 448-foot, 17-story building is beige, rectangular, and mostly windowless. On its roof, there is a large microwave tower, which was originally used to transmit phone calls across a network of antennae. The tower’s technology became obsolete in the early 1990s, and it ceased to operate. It remains in place today as a sort of monument to outdated methods of communication and stands in contrast to the more modern buildings in the vicinity, many of them owned by banks.

The Madison Complex is located just two blocks from One Wilshire, which houses what is reportedly the most important internet exchange on the U.S. west coast. “Billions of phone calls, emails and internet pages pass through One Wilshire every week,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2013, “because it is the primary terminus for major fiber-optic cable routes between Asia and North America.”

Due to the close proximity of the Madison Complex and One Wilshire, and their shared role as telecommunications hubs, it is likely that the buildings process some of the same data as it is being routed across U.S. networks.

NSA and AT&T maps point to the Madison Complex facility as being one of the “peering” hubs, which process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. A former AT&T employee confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

It was built in 1964 as New York City’s first major telecommunications fortress. The striking concrete and granite AT&T building – located in the Hell’s Kitchen area about a 15-minute walk from Central Park – is 134 meters tall, with 21 floors, each one of them windowless and built to resist a nuclear blast.

A New York Times article published in 1975 noted that 811 10th Avenue was “the first of several windowless equipment buildings to be constructed” in the city, and added that its design initially “caused considerable controversy.”

Aerial shot of 811 10th street, NYC, ca. 1965.

Photo: courtesy of Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

According to AT&T records, the building is a “hardened telco data center” and was upgraded in 2000 to become an internet data center. Thomas Saunders, a former AT&T engineer, told The Intercept that, in the 1970s, the building was considered to be “the biggest hub for transmission [of communications] in the country.” Saunders also claimed that, had Bush been in Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks, the Secret Service would have taken him to safety inside the AT&T facility. “It’s the strongest building in town,” he said.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

NSA and AT&T maps indicate that the 10th Avenue facility is one of eight “peering” hubs that process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. Two former AT&T employees confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

The design of the building bears some resemblance to another windowless building in New York City – AT&T’s towering skyscraper at 33 Thomas Street in lower Manhattan. As The Intercept reported in 2016, 33 Thomas Street is a major hub for routing international phone calls and appears to contain a secure NSA surveillance room – code-named TITANPOINTE – that has been used to tap into faxes and phone calls.

NSA and AT&T documents indicate that 10th Avenue building serves as the NSA’s internet equivalent of 33 Thomas Street. While the NSA’s surveillance at 33 Thomas Street mainly targets phone calls that pass through the building’s international switching points, at the 10th Avenue site the agency appears to primarily collect emails, online chats, and data from internet browsing sessions.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

This San Francisco AT&T building has been described as the city’s telecommunications “nerve center.” It is about 256 feet tall, has nine floors, and its exterior is covered in silver-colored panels; there are a series of vents that can be seen at street level, but there are few windows.

NSA and AT&T maps obtained by The Intercept indicate that 611 Folsom Street is one of the eight “peering” hubs in the U.S. that process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. Philip Long, who was employed by AT&T for more than two decades as a technician servicing its networks, confirmed that the San Francisco site is one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

Long recalled that, in the early 2000s, he “moved every internet backbone circuit I had in northern California” through the Folsom Street office. At the time, he said, he and his colleagues found it strange that they were asked to suddenly reroute all of the traffic, because “there was nothing wrong with the services, no facility problems.”“We were getting orders to move backbones … and it just grabbed me,” said Long. “We thought it was government stuff and that they were being intrusive. We thought we were routing our circuits so that they could grab all the data.”

It is not the first time the building has been implicated in revelations about electronic eavesdropping. In 2006, an AT&T technician named Mark Klein alleged in a sworn court declaration that the NSA was tapping into internet traffic from a secure room on the sixth floor of the facility.

Klein, who worked at 611 Folsom Street between October 2003 and May 2004, stated that employees from the agency had visited the building and recruited one of AT&T’s management level technicians to carry out a “special job.” The job involved installing a “splitter cabinet” that copied internet data as it was flowing into the building, before diverting it into the secure room.

The room at AT&T’s Folsom St. facility that allegedly contained NSA surveillance equipment.
Photo: Mark Klein

He said equipment in the secure room included a “semantic traffic analyzer” – a tool that can be used to search large quantities of data for particular words or phrases contained in emails or online chats. Notably, Klein discovered that the NSA appeared to be specifically targeting internet “peering links,” which is corroborated by the NSA and AT&T documents obtained by The Intercept.

“By cutting into the peering links, they get not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies,” Klein told The Intercept in a recent interview.According to documents provided by Klein, AT&T’s network at Folsom Street “peered” with other companies like Sprint, Cable & Wireless, and Qwest. It was also linked, he said, to an internet exchange named MAE West, a major data hub in San Jose, California, where other companies connect their networks together.

Sprint did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Cable & Wireless said the company only discloses data “when legally required to do so as a result of a valid warrant or other legal process.” In 2011, CenturyLink acquired Qwest as part of a $12.2 billion merger deal. A CenturyLink spokesperson said he could not discuss “matters of national security.”

Photo: Jovelle Tamayo for The Intercept

The Seattle facility is located in the city’s downtown area, not far from the waterfront. The gray building is 15 stories tall, with a dozen rows of narrow, blacked-out windows and vents that rise to its peak. According to public records, it was first constructed in 1955 and has reinforced concrete foundations and exterior walls that are supported by a steel frame.Historically, the facility was an important communications switching point in the northwest of the U.S., routing calls between places like Bellingham, Spokane, Yakima, and north to Canada and Alaska. Today, the building appears to be primarily owned by the Qwest Corporation – a subsidiary of CenturyLink – but AT&T has a presence within it. AT&T’s logo is emblazoned on a plaque outside the building’s entrance.

Twenty-five miles north of Seattle, there is a major intercontinental undersea cable called Pacific Crossing-1, which routes communications between the U.S. and Japan; it is possible that the Seattle building processes some of these communications and others that pass between the U.S. west coast and Asia.

Photo: Jovelle Tamayo for The Intercept

NSA and AT&T maps point to the Seattle facility as being of eight “peering” hubs that process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. A former AT&T employee confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Photo: Henrik Moltke

The building is a large, concrete, rectangular-shaped facility with few windows, located less than a mile south of the U.S. Capitol. Property tax records show that Verizon owns the majority of the property (worth $26 million), while AT&T owns a smaller part (worth $8.8 million). Plans of the building’s internal layout show that AT&T has space on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors.

Central Office Buildings, a website that profiles telecommunications hubs in North America, describes the 30 E Street South West facility as “the granddaddy HQ of Verizon landline in Washington, DC.” It adds that the building contains a “a slew of switches of various types,” including AT&T equipment for routing long distance phone calls across networks.

Photo: Mike Osborne

Capitol Police has an office located opposite the telecommunications hub, and a large number of police vehicles are usually located around the site. When The Intercept visited the facility to take photographs earlier this year, within a few minutes, several armed police officers arrived on the scene with dogs. They questioned our reporter, searched his car, and said that the building was considered critical infrastructure.NSA and AT&T maps point to the Washington, D.C. facility as being one of eight “peering” hubs that process internet traffic as part of the NSA surveillance program code-named FAIRVIEW. A former AT&T employee confirmed that the site was one of eight primary AT&T “Service Node Routing Complexes,” or SNRCs, in the U.S. NSA documents explicitly describe tapping into flows of data at all eight of these sites.

Documents

Documents published with this article:

Source:  https://theintercept.com/2018/06/25/att-internet-nsa-spy-hubs/

**

Conveniently left out of the above article is Operation Talpiot, which is the NSA’s data pipeline to Israel.  Everything you communicate electronically is stored and analyzed by Israel.

**

Apparently the relationship between AT&T and the NSA has been ongoing “for decades”, and it isn’t just data from AT&T customers that is being collected.

In fact, according to an AT&T technician that worked for the company for 22 years, the NSA is able to capture “all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies”, and because of the nature of how the network functions, AT&T is “liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year”…

The data exchange between AT&T and other networks initially takes place outside AT&T’s control, sources said, at third-party data centers that are owned and operated by companies such as California’s Equinix. But the data is then routed – in whole or in part – through the eight AT&T buildings, where the NSA taps into it. By monitoring what it calls the “peering circuits” at the eight sites, the spy agency can collect “not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies,” according to Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who worked with the company for 22 years. It is an efficient point to conduct internet surveillance, Klein said, “because the peering links, by the nature of the connections, are liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year.”

Read more: http://www.investmentwatchblog.com/is-the-government-using-spy-hubs-in-8-att-buildings-across-the-country-to-intercept-our-emails-phone-calls-and-text-messages/

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Safety or surveillance: What is the NSA’s Utah Data Center?

October 25, 2012

by John Hollenhorst

BLUFFDALE — One of the biggest and most mysterious construction projects in Utah history is roughly halfway completed near the Point of the Mountain. It’s a vast computer center for one of the nation’s most secretive agencies, the National Security Agency.

Critics joke that NSA really stands for “Never Say Anything.” The secrecy surrounding the project has led to speculation it will become a vast storehouse of personal communications of average Americans.

The facility is 1 million square feet of space, with a price tag well above $1 billion; and it will have an appetite for electricity that would embarrass Godzilla. Computers and cooling systems at the NSA’s Utah Data Center will reportedly consume $40 million worth of power each year. The power company won’t say if that widely reported estimate is valid.

“The information about customer use is private and so even if I knew, I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” said Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.

Officials in Washington won’t say what the data center is for, but the NSA did issue a vague statement saying it will “strengthen and protect the nation’s cyber-security.” That’s a critical mission, according to NSA director General Keith Alexander.

“Whether it’s a nation-state or a hacker, somebody who finds a vulnerability in our infrastructure could cause tremendous problems,” Alexander said.

But a Washington whistleblower says that’s just a cover story for a serious threat to civil liberties. William Binney worked for the NSA for 32 years. He still lives by the highly secure headquarters near Baltimore.

Binney led a team in the 1990s that developed software designed to sort through mountains of electronic data. It could slice and dice billions of emails, phone calls and Internet records, looking for clues to terrorist plots. But Binney’s team built into the software sophisticated protections so that communications by U.S. citizens would be protected from NSA snooping.

When the NSA passed over his system, Binney retired in anger, right after the attack on the World Trade Center.

“It didn’t take but probably a week or so after 9/11 that they decided to start spying on the U.S. domestically, on all U.S. citizens they could get,” Binney said.

It didn’t take but probably a week or so after 9/11 that they decided to start spying on the U.S. domestically, on all U.S. citizens they could get.

–William Binney, former NSA employee

He now suspects the facility in Bluffdale will be used to store incredible amounts of communication data so the NSA can sift through it, whether it’s from foreign terrorists or law-abiding U.S. citizens. Emails, cellphone calls, Google searches; Binney calculated how much data such a huge facility could hold.

“That means at Bluffdale, if you divide it out, you could get 5 zetabytes,” he said.

That’s an incredible number that most of us can’t really understand, but Binney gave an idea of what it means.

“(It) pretty much means all the communications in the world, for roughly a hundred years,” he said.

Last summer, Gen. Alexander denied the thrust of Binney’s accusations, calling the idea that they store data on U.S. citizens “baloney.” But in Senate testimony, FBI chief Robert Mueller recently revealed a new capability, searching “past emails,” implying mass storage somewhere. Binney says his contacts inside NSA told him about surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Alexander did preserve the NSA’s traditional cone of silence. “Now, I’m not going to come out and say here’s what we’re doing at Utah,” he said. “That would be ridiculous, too, because it’ll give our adversaries a tremendous advantage.”

NSA’s past controversial surveillance activity

No matter whom you believe about the Utah facility, the NSA’s secretive activities have stirred up serious controversy in recent years, particularly electronic surveillance without warrants.

A highly classified operation of the NSA jumped into the headlines during the Bush administration and remains controversial today.

Whistleblower William Binney says the Utah Data Center could store all the communications worldwide sent and received for 100 years.

The veil of secrecy was pierced in 2005 when the New York Times revealed that NSA had been conducting wire-tapping, without warrants, on a widespread scale. That revelation touched off a fierce debate in Washington, D.C., over the rights of citizens — what the law is and what the law should be.

In 2008, Congress amended the law, authorizing much of what the Bush administration was already doing: surveillance of communications by suspected terrorists, without warrants.

Under the law, Americans cannot be targeted, but if they’re on the other end of a conversation with a foreign suspect, the NSA can listen in without a warrant. That revised law is strongly opposed by civil libertarians.

“We don’t want the government to be able to have access without any basis for suspicion, to read all our emails, to listen in on our phone calls,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, with the Constitution Project. “That’s not the kind of place that this country is. That’s not what our Constitution is about.”

But warrantless surveillance has bipartisan support in Congress, which is considering extending the law up to five more years. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told KSL News that it works well at “ferreting out terrorists.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, agreed. “Every one of our intelligence leaders, both in this and previous administrations, view it as a vital element,” McCain said. “We still have an enemy out there that’s plotting to attack America.

“When people start to think, ‘If my entire life were being watched, and being watched by government agents who might then collect a file on me,’ many more people would start to feel uncomfortable with that,” Bradford Franklin said.

But is that what will really go on at Bluffdale’s huge new complex, once the computers and data servers start humming? Frankly, we don’t know because it’s all a big secret.

Source:  https://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=22705217

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The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

March 15, 2012

by James Ramford of Wired.com

Photo: Name Withheld; Digital Manipulation: Jesse Lenz

The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.

Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.

But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.

Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.

The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens.

It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

UTAH DATA CENTER —————-
When construction is completed in 2013, the heavily fortified $2 billion facility in Bluffdale will encompass 1 million square feet.

1 Visitor control center

A $9.7 million facility for ensuring that only cleared personnel gain access.

2 Administration

Designated space for technical support and administrative personnel.

3 Data halls

Four 25,000-square-foot facilities house rows and rows of servers.

4 Backup generators and fuel tanks

Can power the center for at least three days.

5 Water storage and pumping

Able to pump 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day.

6 Chiller plant

About 60,000 tons of cooling equipment to keep servers from overheating.

7 Power substation

An electrical substation to meet the center’s estimated 65-megawatt demand.

8 Security

Video surveillance, intrusion detection, and other protection will cost more than $10 million.

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Conceptual Site plan

A swath of freezing fog blanketed Salt Lake City on the morning of January 6, 2011, mixing with a weeklong coating of heavy gray smog. Red air alerts, warning people to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary, had become almost daily occurrences, and the temperature was in the bone-chilling twenties. “What I smell and taste is like coal smoke,” complained one local blogger that day. At the city’s international airport, many inbound flights were delayed or diverted while outbound regional jets were grounded.  But among those making it through the icy mist was a figure whose gray suit and tie made him almost disappear into the background. He was tall and thin, with the physique of an aging basketball player and dark caterpillar eyebrows beneath a shock of matching hair. Accompanied by a retinue of bodyguards, the man was NSA deputy director Chris Inglis, the agency’s highest-ranking civilian and the person who ran its worldwide day-to-day operations.

A short time later, Inglis arrived in Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,” he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them spying on me.”

For his part, Inglis simply engaged in a bit of double-talk, emphasizing the least threatening aspect of the center: “It’s a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the intelligence community in its mission to, in turn, enable and protect the nation’s cybersecurity.” While cybersecurity will certainly be among the areas focused on in Bluffdale, what is collected, how it’s collected, and what is done with the material are far more important issues. Battling hackers makes for a nice cover—it’s easy to explain, and who could be against it? Then the reporters turned to Hatch, who proudly described the center as “a great tribute to Utah,” then added, “I can’t tell you a lot about what they’re going to be doing, because it’s highly classified.”

And then there was this anomaly: Although this was supposedly the official ground-breaking for the nation’s largest and most expensive cybersecurity project, no one from the Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for protecting civilian networks from cyberattack, spoke from the lectern. In fact, the official who’d originally introduced the data center, at a press conference in Salt Lake City in October 2009, had nothing to do with cybersecurity. It was Glenn A. Gaffney, deputy director of national intelligence for collection, a man who had spent almost his entire career at the CIA. As head of collection for the intelligence community, he managed the country’s human and electronic spies.

Within days, the tent and sandbox and gold shovels would be gone and Inglis and the generals would be replaced by some 10,000 construction workers. “We’ve been asked not to talk about the project,” Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction, one of the three major contractors working on the project, told a local reporter. The plans for the center show an extensive security system: an elaborate $10 million antiterrorism protection program, including a fence designed to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 miles per hour, closed-circuit cameras, a biometric identification system, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor-control center.

Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.

Given the facility’s scale and the fact that a terabyte of data can now be stored on a flash drive the size of a man’s pinky, the potential amount of information that could be housed in Bluffdale is truly staggering. But so is the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies. As a result of this “expanding array of theater airborne and other sensor networks,” as a 2007 Department of Defense report puts it, the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)

It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015, reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) In terms of scale, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, once estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. And the data flow shows no sign of slowing. In 2011 more than 2 billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people were connected to the Internet. By 2015, market research firm IDC estimates, there will be 2.7 billion users. Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.

The data stored in Bluffdale will naturally go far beyond the world’s billions of public web pages. The NSA is more interested in the so-called invisible web, also known as the deep web or deepnet—data beyond the reach of the public. This includes password-protected data, US and foreign government communications, and noncommercial file-sharing between trusted peers. “The deep web contains government reports, databases, and other sources of information of high value to DOD and the intelligence community,” according to a 2010 Defense Science Board report. “Alternative tools are needed to find and index data in the deep web … Stealing the classified secrets of a potential adversary is where the [intelligence] community is most comfortable.” With its new Utah Data Center, the NSA will at last have the technical capability to store, and rummage through, all those stolen secrets. The question, of course, is how the agency defines who is, and who is not, “a potential adversary.”

The NSA’S SPY NETWORK ———————

Once it’s operational, the Utah Data Center will become, in effect, the NSA’s cloud. The center will be fed data collected by the agency’s eavesdropping satellites, overseas listening posts, and secret monitoring rooms in telecom facilities throughout the US. All that data will then be accessible to the NSA’s code breakers, data-miners, China analysts, counterterrorism specialists, and others working at its Fort Meade headquarters and around the world. Here’s how the data center appears to fit into the NSA’s global puzzle.—J.B.

SPY NETWORK

1 Geostationary satellites

Four satellites positioned around the globe monitor frequencies carrying everything from walkie-talkies and cell phones in Libya to radar systems in North Korea. Onboard software acts as the first filter in the collection process, targeting only key regions, countries, cities, and phone numbers or email.

2 Aerospace Data Facility, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado

Intelligence collected from the geostationary satellites, as well as signals from other spacecraft and overseas listening posts, is relayed to this facility outside Denver. About 850 NSA employees track the satellites, transmit target information, and download the intelligence haul.

3 NSA Georgia, Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia

Focuses on intercepts from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Codenamed Sweet Tea, the facility has been massively expanded and now consists of a 604,000-square-foot operations building for up to 4,000 intercept operators, analysts, and other specialists.

4 NSA Texas, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio

Focuses on intercepts from Latin America and, since 9/11, the Middle East and Europe. Some 2,000 workers staff the operation. The NSA recently completed a $100 million renovation on a mega-data center here—a backup storage facility for the Utah Data Center.

5 NSA Hawaii, Oahu

Focuses on intercepts from Asia. Built to house an aircraft assembly plant during World War II, the 250,000-square-foot bunker is nicknamed the Hole. Like the other NSA operations centers, it has since been expanded: Its 2,700 employees now do their work aboveground from a new 234,000-square-foot facility.

6 Domestic listening posts

The NSA has long been free to eavesdrop on international satellite communications. But after 9/11, it installed taps in US telecom “switches,” gaining access to domestic traffic. An ex-NSA official says there are 10 to 20 such installations.

7 Overseas listening posts

According to a knowledgeable intelligence source, the NSA has installed taps on at least a dozen of the major overseas communications links, each capable of eavesdropping on information passing by at a high data rate.

8 Utah Data Center, Bluffdale, Utah

At a million square feet, this $2 billion digital storage facility outside Salt Lake City will be the centerpiece of the NSA’s cloud-based data strategy and essential in its plans for decrypting previously uncrackable documents.

9 Multiprogram Research Facility, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Some 300 scientists and computer engineers with top security clearance toil away here, building the world’s fastest supercomputers and working on cryptanalytic applications and other secret projects.

10 NSA headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland

Analysts here will access material stored at Bluffdale to prepare reports and recommendations that are sent to policymakers. To handle the increased data load, the NSA is also building an $896 million supercomputer center here.

Before yottabytes of data from the deep web and elsewhere can begin piling up inside the servers of the NSA’s new center, they must be collected. To better accomplish that, the agency has undergone the largest building boom in its history, including installing secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities. Controlled by the NSA, these highly secured spaces are where the agency taps into the US communications networks, a practice that came to light during the Bush years but was never acknowledged by the agency. The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed—how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email. In the wake of the program’s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program.

For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. A tall man with strands of black hair across the front of his scalp and dark, determined eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA’s bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Binney and his team designed much of the infrastructure that’s still likely used to intercept international and foreign communications.

He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”

The eavesdropping on Americans doesn’t stop at the telecom switches. To capture satellite communications in and out of the US, the agency also monitors AT&T’s powerful earth stations, satellite receivers in locations that include Roaring Creek and Salt Creek. Tucked away on a back road in rural Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Roaring Creek’s three 105-foot dishes handle much of the country’s communications to and from Europe and the Middle East. And on an isolated stretch of land in remote Arbuckle, California, three similar dishes at the company’s Salt Creek station service the Pacific Rim and Asia.

The former NSA official held his thumb and forefinger close together: “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.

The software, created by a company called Narus that’s now part of Boeing, is controlled remotely from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland and searches US sources for target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on agency watch lists, are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.

The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.

According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.

Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)

After he left the NSA, Binney suggested a system for monitoring people’s communications according to how closely they are connected to an initial target. The further away from the target—say you’re just an acquaintance of a friend of the target—the less the surveillance. But the agency rejected the idea, and, given the massive new storage facility in Utah, Binney suspects that it now simply collects everything. “The whole idea was, how do you manage 20 terabytes of intercept a minute?” he says. “The way we proposed was to distinguish between things you want and things you don’t want.” Instead, he adds, “they’re storing everything they gather.” And the agency is gathering as much as it can.

Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the data-mining begins. “You can watch everybody all the time with data- mining,” Binney says. Everything a person does becomes charted on a graph, “financial transactions or travel or anything,” he says. Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone’s life.

The NSA also has the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time. According to Adrienne J. Kinne, who worked both before and after 9/11 as a voice interceptor at the NSA facility in Georgia, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks “basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” Kinne found the act of eavesdropping on innocent fellow citizens personally distressing. “It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,” she says.

In secret listening rooms nationwide, NSA software examines every email, phone call, and tweet as they zip by.

But there is, of course, reason for anyone to be distressed about the practice. Once the door is open for the government to spy on US citizens, there are often great temptations to abuse that power for political purposes, as when Richard Nixon eavesdropped on his political enemies during Watergate and ordered the NSA to spy on antiwar protesters. Those and other abuses prompted Congress to enact prohibitions in the mid-1970s against domestic spying.

Before he gave up and left the NSA, Binney tried to persuade officials to create a more targeted system that could be authorized by a court. At the time, the agency had 72 hours to obtain a legal warrant, and Binney devised a method to computerize the system. “I had proposed that we automate the process of requesting a warrant and automate approval so we could manage a couple of million intercepts a day, rather than subvert the whole process.” But such a system would have required close coordination with the courts, and NSA officials weren’t interested in that, Binney says. Instead they continued to haul in data on a grand scale. Asked how many communications—”transactions,” in NSA’s lingo—the agency has intercepted since 9/11, Binney estimates the number at “between 15 and 20 trillion, the aggregate over 11 years.”

When Barack Obama took office, Binney hoped the new administration might be open to reforming the program to address his constitutional concerns. He and another former senior NSA analyst, J. Kirk Wiebe, tried to bring the idea of an automated warrant-approval system to the attention of the Department of Justice’s inspector general. They were given the brush-off. “They said, oh, OK, we can’t comment,” Binney says.

Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.

There is still one technology preventing untrammeled government access to private digital data: strong encryption. Anyone—from terrorists and weapons dealers to corporations, financial institutions, and ordinary email senders—can use it to seal their messages, plans, photos, and documents in hardened data shells. For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).

Breaking into those complex mathematical shells like the AES is one of the key reasons for the construction going on in Bluffdale. That kind of cryptanalysis requires two major ingredients: super-fast computers to conduct brute-force attacks on encrypted messages and a massive number of those messages for the computers to analyze. The more messages from a given target, the more likely it is for the computers to detect telltale patterns, and Bluffdale will be able to hold a great many messages. “We questioned it one time,” says another source, a senior intelligence manager who was also involved with the planning. “Why were we building this NSA facility? And, boy, they rolled out all the old guys—the crypto guys.” According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.

So the agency had one major ingredient—a massive data storage facility—under way. Meanwhile, across the country in Tennessee, the government was working in utmost secrecy on the other vital element: the most powerful computer the world has ever known.

The plan was launched in 2004 as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Dubbed the High Productivity Computing Systems program, its goal was to advance computer speed a thousandfold, creating a machine that could execute a quadrillion (1015) operations a second, known as a petaflop—the computer equivalent of breaking the land speed record. And as with the Manhattan Project, the venue chosen for the supercomputing program was the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee, a rural area where sharp ridges give way to low, scattered hills, and the southwestward-flowing Clinch River bends sharply to the southeast. About 25 miles from Knoxville, it is the “secret city” where uranium- 235 was extracted for the first atomic bomb. A sign near the exit read: what you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Today, not far from where that sign stood, Oak Ridge is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and it’s engaged in a new secret war. But this time, instead of a bomb of almost unimaginable power, the weapon is a computer of almost unimaginable speed.

In 2004, as part of the supercomputing program, the Department of Energy established its Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility for multiple agencies to join forces on the project. But in reality there would be two tracks, one unclassified, in which all of the scientific work would be public, and another top-secret, in which the NSA could pursue its own computer covertly. “For our purposes, they had to create a separate facility,” says a former senior NSA computer expert who worked on the project and is still associated with the agency. (He is one of three sources who described the program.) It was an expensive undertaking, but one the NSA was desperate to launch.

Known as the Multiprogram Research Facility, or Building 5300, the $41 million, five-story, 214,000-square-foot structure was built on a plot of land on the lab’s East Campus and completed in 2006. Behind the brick walls and green-tinted windows, 318 scientists, computer engineers, and other staff work in secret on the cryptanalytic applications of high-speed computing and other classified projects. The supercomputer center was named in honor of George R. Cotter, the NSA’s now-retired chief scientist and head of its information technology program. Not that you’d know it. “There’s no sign on the door,” says the ex-NSA computer expert.

At the DOE’s unclassified center at Oak Ridge, work progressed at a furious pace, although it was a one-way street when it came to cooperation with the closemouthed people in Building 5300. Nevertheless, the unclassified team had its Cray XT4 supercomputer upgraded to a warehouse-sized XT5. Named Jaguar for its speed, it clocked in at 1.75 petaflops, officially becoming the world’s fastest computer in 2009.

Meanwhile, over in Building 5300, the NSA succeeded in building an even faster supercomputer. “They made a big breakthrough,” says another former senior intelligence official, who helped oversee the program. The NSA’s machine was likely similar to the unclassified Jaguar, but it was much faster out of the gate, modified specifically for cryptanalysis and targeted against one or more specific algorithms, like the AES. In other words, they were moving from the research and development phase to actually attacking extremely difficult encryption systems. The code-breaking effort was up and running.

The breakthrough was enormous, says the former official, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”

In addition to giving the NSA access to a tremendous amount of Americans’ personal data, such an advance would also open a window on a trove of foreign secrets. While today most sensitive communications use the strongest encryption, much of the older data stored by the NSA, including a great deal of what will be transferred to Bluffdale once the center is complete, is encrypted with more vulnerable ciphers. “Remember,” says the former intelligence official, “a lot of foreign government stuff we’ve never been able to break is 128 or less. Break all that and you’ll find out a lot more of what you didn’t know—stuff we’ve already stored—so there’s an enormous amount of information still in there.”

The NSA believes it’s on the verge of breaking a key encryption algorithm—opening up hoards of data.

That, he notes, is where the value of Bluffdale, and its mountains of long-stored data, will come in. What can’t be broken today may be broken tomorrow. “Then you can see what they were saying in the past,” he says. “By extrapolating the way they did business, it gives us an indication of how they may do things now.” The danger, the former official says, is that it’s not only foreign government information that is locked in weaker algorithms, it’s also a great deal of personal domestic communications, such as Americans’ email intercepted by the NSA in the past decade.

But first the supercomputer must break the encryption, and to do that, speed is everything. The faster the computer, the faster it can break codes. The Data Encryption Standard, the 56-bit predecessor to the AES, debuted in 1976 and lasted about 25 years. The AES made its first appearance in 2001 and is expected to remain strong and durable for at least a decade. But if the NSA has secretly built a computer that is considerably faster than machines in the unclassified arena, then the agency has a chance of breaking the AES in a much shorter time. And with Bluffdale in operation, the NSA will have the luxury of storing an ever-expanding archive of intercepts until that breakthrough comes along.

But despite its progress, the agency has not finished building at Oak Ridge, nor is it satisfied with breaking the petaflop barrier. Its next goal is to reach exaflop speed, one quintillion (1018) operations a second, and eventually zettaflop (1021) and yottaflop.

These goals have considerable support in Congress. Last November a bipartisan group of 24 senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to approve continued funding through 2013 for the Department of Energy’s exascale computing initiative (the NSA’s budget requests are classified). They cited the necessity to keep up with and surpass China and Japan. “The race is on to develop exascale computing capabilities,” the senators noted. The reason was clear: By late 2011 the Jaguar (now with a peak speed of 2.33 petaflops) ranked third behind Japan’s “K Computer,” with an impressive 10.51 petaflops, and the Chinese Tianhe-1A system, with 2.57 petaflops.

But the real competition will take place in the classified realm. To secretly develop the new exaflop (or higher) machine by 2018, the NSA has proposed constructing two connecting buildings, totaling 260,000 square feet, near its current facility on the East Campus of Oak Ridge. Called the Multiprogram Computational Data Center, the buildings will be low and wide like giant warehouses, a design necessary for the dozens of computer cabinets that will compose an exaflop-scale machine, possibly arranged in a cluster to minimize the distance between circuits. According to a presentation delivered to DOE employees in 2009, it will be an “unassuming facility with limited view from roads,” in keeping with the NSA’s desire for secrecy. And it will have an extraordinary appetite for electricity, eventually using about 200 megawatts, enough to power 200,000 homes. The computer will also produce a gargantuan amount of heat, requiring 60,000 tons of cooling equipment, the same amount that was needed to serve both of the World Trade Center towers.

In the meantime Cray is working on the next step for the NSA, funded in part by a $250 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It’s a massively parallel supercomputer called Cascade, a prototype of which is due at the end of 2012. Its development will run largely in parallel with the unclassified effort for the DOE and other partner agencies. That project, due in 2013, will upgrade the Jaguar XT5 into an XK6, codenamed Titan, upping its speed to 10 to 20 petaflo.

Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated

James Bamford (washwriter@gmail.com) is the author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.

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Militarized police in America, drones, spying on Americans, AT&T building without windows in NYC set up to withstand nuclear war as spying occurs 24/7.

Watch the video on Vimeo:  Dark Tower of Illuminati in America – A Video You Need to See (2018 – 2019)

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The Mormon Connection to the CIA

As American historian Webster Tarpley outlines in his podcast interview on Guns and Butter, the Mormons have a wealth of young men not tempted by vices, women, drugs, and alcohol who speak at least one foreign language due to their time as missionaries:  Webster Tarpley CIA Mormon Mafia & the Benghazi Attack

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Zohar Zisapel, the RAD dad of the world’s telecom industry

February 2, 2009

by Karin Kloosterman

“I don’t like big organizations,” Zohar Zisapel, the co-founder and chairman of RAD Data Communications, one of Israel’s most successful groups of companies. Rumor has it that one of Israel’s most successful entrepreneurs — Zohar Zisapel, a founder of RAD Data Communications — wears sandals and jeans to work, and flies economy class. The sandals part is true, he tells ISRAEL21c, but he no longer flies economy.

RAD has helped change life as we know it — enabling high-speed and wireless communication, and secure telephone networks and banking. Today, RAD is a solutions provider for more than 100 telecom operators around the world, including AT&T, British Telecom, Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom, Japan Telecom, and Orange France. It provides communications tools to major players in the banking, commerce, education, finance, government, military, transportation, and utility sectors.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, Zisapel’s father — an immigrant from Poland — was a shoe salesman. Before becoming the head of the Electronic Research Department of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Zisapel had studied at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology for two degrees, then went on to Tel Aviv University for an MBA.

In 1981, he quit the Ministry of Defenseand start RAD from the back offices of Bynet, a company his brother had started. Zohar’s first assignment at RAD was to manage the development of the company’s first product — a mini modem that would change the computer industry. http://www.israel21c.org/people/zohar-zisapel-the-rad-dad-of-the-world-s-telecom-industry (This link has been scrubbed from the internet)

Read more:  https://jdavismemphis.com/2017/04/27/israel-the-greatest-spy-machine-of-all-time-operation-talpiot-and-the-technion/

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