An Analysis of Warrantless Wiretapping-Part I

Definition of Terms & Analysis of Klein’s Affidavit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fascism is the convergence of governmental and corporate power.

So the questions I have are this.

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

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

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

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

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  1. Well-executed piece by ‘Ishmael.’ Looking forward to Part II!! I’ll be interviewing Mark Klein this Wednesday, and have a couple of solid questions from Ishmael for him…

  2. Can you imagine the shopping opportunities present when voice recognition software picks up keywords over areas scaled down to the individual phone?

    You won’t even have to worry about where to go for lunch, an automatic list of covertly branded ‘local’ options will be provided for you!

  3. Great article Ish, now can I call you and talk when I can’t get to sleep at night?

    Seriously, great job man. I appreciate the information.

    Great site Ms. Edmonds! Your hard work is also much appreciated.

  4. The Nokia Siemens Intelligence Platform dubbed \"intelligence in a box,\" integrates tasks generally done by separate security teams and pools the data from sources such as telephone or mobile calls, email and internet activity, bank transactions, insurance records and the like. Call it data mining on steroids. @Ishmael Thank you. This is an excerpt from Wikileaks that corroborates your concerns in depth.

  5. While we’re talking about big brother, the internet, and fascism it’s worth mentioning ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). It’s an international treaty that will in effect determine intellectual property rights law and it’s being negotiated between multiple governments with the input of large business interests, in the entertainment industries especially, behind closed doors. Several documents have been leaked recently giving us a taste of what’s to come. One person described it this way, “This is an entertainment industry-written bill designed to recreate the internet in its image — as a broadcasting platform, rather than one used for user-generated content”

  6. TapDuncan says:

    Ish, great article, and talking to you makes it even more frightening. I think Obama was wrong to continue this program.

  7. Well done, Ishmael. Not too long ago, I went back and watched an interview that James Bamford did with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! It scares me how easy it is to learn of these things and then forget about them as the days, months, and years pass.

    In response to question #2 it would appear that there are no mechanisms in place. Even more concerning, as Bamford suggested, is the possibility that since AT&T and Verizon have essentially outsourced their communication gathering programs to Israeli companies, there is no way to even assure that whatever info. is gathered is kept in the US.

    My guesstimate re: question #4 is that currency collapse could serve as the trigger. People have been openly talking about a dollar collapse for some time now.

  8. Excellent explanation of the breadth of the wiretap systems, and I am interested to see if Sibel confirms, though I can wait til Wednesday for her follow-up with Bamford.

    Don’t know that I dig the format of the new site…yet…


  9. A problem with current voice recognition software:

    Not being able to distinguish between numbers (even if you speak slowly and distinctly). Some Wall Street firms are having big problems with this as clients call in. You could literally say the correct pin number to your account three times and the system could still reject you.

    Yet these firms have how many billions now in bailout funds? I wonder if the CEO’s have this problem?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  10. Thank you all for your kind comments. I’m gratified to get so many positive responses.

    Simon: Great link. I’ll be incorporating some of the info there in my follow-on piece to this.

    Metem: Another great link. So it seems we are to be involuntarily placed among the mindless consumers. Because, after all, the LAST thing these people want is a free and INFORMED citizenry practicing coherent thinking and actions.

    Jade: Bamford’s first interview said it all when he described how the Australian government had less control over their own surveillance regime than their Israeli “Contractors” did.

    Thanks again to everyone else for your kind comments, especially my old compadres from the RhodesScholar boards who showed suport for me here.

    The Thousand-Mile journey begins beneath your feet.

  11. Ishmael: And thank you for this informative and well-written piece. Don’t forget to provide our readers with the link to your upcoming interview on this topic!

  12. Hi, Ishmael:

    Hope it’s not too late to post this question. Perhaps Sib can forward it, if you don’t see it. Here’s the $50 trillion question: We know that Narus provides the splitter equipment, but does Israel get a piece of the “take” (the data intercepted by NSA) as well? Is there a UK/USA (Echelon) agreement with Israel like the one the US has with the Commonwealth countries? If so, if Israel gets access to US telecom data, what do we get in return?

    The only answer to the last question that would make sense to me is human intel, because any electronic signals worldwide can (presumably) be gathered more effectively by NSA than any other agency – does anyone have any comments on that?

  13. The Cold War Technology blitz possibly prioritized the scheduling of human abilities. Competition to provide a greater measure or record of successive human ability, generates supremacy. Comprehensive research derived from Pavlovian controls is the most potent scheduling interface available.

  14. Anyone interested in this topic should buy Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine…And Fighting It, by Mark Klein. Save a hard copy mountain of info about the war against America for future reference. An update is that the NSA is building a supercomputer center in Utah of one million square feet to process the data that is collected in their eavesdropping. It’s fun to follow the various threads of stories related to our downfall,thanks to the internet and digital reproduction and storage of information. Works both ways and appears to be in a deadly race.

  15. leveymg,

    The optical hybrid splitters are actually standard telecom equipment in fiberoptics and are generally used at cross-connect points as a test equipment point. What Narus and Verint supply are the STAs, Semantic Traffic Analyzers. These are the boxes that actually search through the optical data streams for keywords and phrases. Since Bamford’s podcast showed the Australian government didn’t know or didn’t confirm their surveillance system traffic was being monitored in Israel and considering the close cooperation between US intelligence and Israeli intelligence, it would be fair to assume the Israelis also have access to the US telecommunications monitoring product as well. I hope this clarifies things a bit for you.

  16. Lenny,

    Bamford, in his podcast here, discusses the Utah center and it’s corresponding twin being built in Texas. what is more alarming to me is the parallel National Traffic Control Center being constructed at Fort Meade that is identical in scope and function to the A.T.&T. NTCC in Bedminster, New Jersey. This Center will give the NSA the capability to assume total control of the US telecommunications system in the event of a “national emergency”. On Klein, Sibel will be interviewing him this week for a later podcast and will be asking questions, some of which have been provided by me.

    It’s also interesting that Sunday’s 60 Minutes devoted half the program to alarming the public over cyberattacks on US telecomm and power grid infrastructures with all the usual alarmists being interviewed. This is to give the justification for both NSA mission creep in the domestic telecom network and the Air Force Cybercommand’s new role in information warfare.

  17. Follow-up question for Ishmael:

    If NSA is using off-the-shelf NARUS and Verint STAs, shouldn’t one expect that such equipment has been tested by NSA for secure operation? Doesn’t NSA subject all secure applications equipment and software to 3rd Party testing? Did not Australia also subject these foreign-sourced STAs to security verification to insure that data wasn’t being illicitely copied, stored, transmitted or diverted post-installation? How do you believe the Israelis would get around security measures, or are the US and Echelon countries just letting certain third-countries have a piece of the domestic “take” in accordance with secret MOUs?

    Thanks for your insight on these questions.

  18. Richard “Ishmael” Scott will discuss this article on The Jeff Farias Show on Tuesday November at 7 PM EASTERN.

    listen live at

    or check out the free podcast availble through the same URL

  19. leveymg,

    If you read Klein’s declaration, It was actually two of his bosses who did the installation of the MTAs and other equipment in the secret rooms. Now it’s a truism that managers are not the best techs and they probably followed Methods of Procedures put together by the NSA.

    On another note, my interview with Jeff Farias is up on Jeff’s site at

    Click on the podcast tab and listen to the 11/10/09 show. I’m on in the second hour.

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