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May 16, 2006


But this was the cover arrangement all along. The NSA said they need to install some secret equipment to help them track terrorists overseas, or whatever. The phone companies said, "Go ahead, but don't tell us what you are doing." The NSA said, "Don't worry, we won't. If we did, we'd have to kill you, heh, heh."

Officially the phone companies don't know anything, and they certainly didn't make any contractual sale of customer data.

I believe the judge in the Enron case put particular emphasis on how 'willful ignorance' is not a defense.

Do you think the Telcos took note of that?

Took them awhile to get the parsing just right, didn't it?

Sorry for this off-topic comment, and if appropriate I'll move to another thread, but EW, what do you make of the this part about the New Republic exhibit in Fitz's repsonse to COURT’S INQUIRY REGARDING NEWS ARTICLES?

"Only two paragraphs of the lengthy article address Ambassador Wilson’s trip, and thus the government anticipates proposing a heavily redacted version of the article, perhaps limited to those two paragraphs."

It seems to be a warning that there is more than those two paragraphs which _may_ be necessary to introduce into evidence. Or maybe not.


I suspect that, once again, he's more interested in the annotations than the article. It's not the content of any of these articles that is at issue--it's the reactions people had to them.

NSA used to have active cooperation from the companies that operated trans-Atlantic cables. Then the cables went away.

They didn't need corporate cooperation to grab satellite and microwave links, just well-situated collection sites. Then the links were replaced by fiber.

They were stymied by fiber. Now they're not.

That's what this article basically argues.

I think it's interesting that...

a) Qwest substantiates the events cited in the USAT story while the other three Telecoms repudiate it.

b) And that Sunday Hadley emphasized that "There are a variety of ways in which those records lawfully can be provided to the government" and that "business records have been held by the courts not to be protected by a right of privacy."

Of course, Hadley couldn't 'confirm or deny' anything. He was 'just saying'...

I have to apologize for posting what may be old news, in an old thread. But if you haven't already seen it, this article describes something similar, with one difference--rather than giving the NSA access to the switches, AT&T may have built special facilities for the NSA. This too is consistent with the telecoms' denial--they didn't give the NSA any data, they simply gave them a window where they could do their own monitoring. But this arrangement has the added advantage that it keeps the telecom and NSA operations separate.

If the telecoms had given the NSA access to their switches, it would have required technical collaboration between them. Big switches and routers are "mission-critical" equipment, and if the NSA was going to mess with them, the network operators would have insisted on being involved, to ensure that they didn't damage the network.

Giving the NSA its own access to the network is a better solution--it helps to maintain secrecy, and it lets the telecom companies claim that they never knew what the NSA was really doing.

But if that's what happened, then suing the telecoms may not reveal that much information (although it could still discourage them from cooperating with the NSA in the future).

Oops--the article that I mentioned above refers quite specifically to monitoring Internet traffic, and not phone calls as in the USA Today piece. Sorry, I typed too soon.

But there's another technical aspect to this: the USA Today article describes a "massive" database of call records. Is it conceivable that the NSA could have collected so much information, given access to the switches, but no other assistance from the telecom companies?

I think it's possible, but only because of some features of the telephone network that I hadn't previously appreciated. AT&T's network carries roughly 300 million calls per day, which is probably too much data for the NSA to process. But signaling information (phone numbers and commands to set up a call) travels over a separate network, so it can be monitored independently of the calls themselves; and this data is much more concise, I'd guess on the order of 100 GB per day. So it's plausible that the NSA could have "taken" this information using their own equipment, without any specific help from the telecoms.

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