The Mix

Whistleblower reveals extent of AT&T spying role

A former employee recounts how the telco has been reading in your email.
Last week, new accounts describing in detail the role that telecommunications giant AT&T has played in providing the government with warrantless information gathered on average citizens. Former technician Mark Klein has come out in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit, which is summed up by the EFF here:
"The evidence that we are filing supports our claim that AT&T is diverting Internet traffic into the hands of the NSA wholesale, in violation of federal wiretapping laws and the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "More than just threatening individuals' privacy, AT&T's apparent choice to give the government secret, direct access to millions of ordinary Americans' Internet communications is a threat to the Constitution itself. We are asking the Court to put a stop to it now."

Klein details what he saw in a statement, the full text of which is available at Wired. Here's an excerpt:
One of the documents listed the equipment installed in the secret room, and this list included a Narus STA 6400, which is a "Semantic Traffic Analyzer". The Narus STA technology is known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets. The company's advertising boasts that its technology "captures comprehensive customer usage data ... and transforms it into actionable information.... (It) provides complete visibility for all internet applications."

What does this mean for you and me?

AT&T is one of the largest backbone providers of the Internet worldwide; others include MCI/Worldcom, Level3, Deutsche Telekom and many more. ("Backbone" is exactly what it sounds like: the very large and sturdy cables that connect the Internet all over the world.) A fairly high percentage of Internet traffic travels on these circuits, and it would seem that AT&T has split and diverted that traffic in at least one location so that it passes through some rigorous monitoring software.

That means that, on behalf of your US government, AT&T has been reading your email, watching what sites you visit and listening in on your chats. In their eyes, we're all terrorists, and we're all subject to warrantless wiretapping and monitoring. Outraged yet?

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Deanna Zandt is a contributing editor at AlterNet.