Big Brother Spying on Americans' Internet Data?
Whistleblower describes how AT&T allows U.S. to spy on customers' Internet data.
Nov. 7, 2007 — -- It would be difficult to say whose e-mail, text messages or Internet phone calls the government is monitoring at any given time, but according to a former AT&T employee, the government has warrantless access to a great deal of Internet traffic should they care to take a peek.
As information is traded between users it flows also into a locked, secret room on the sixth floor of AT&T's San Francisco offices and other rooms around the country -- where the U.S. government can sift through and find the information it wants, former AT&T employee Mark Klein alleged Wednesday at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
"An exact copy of all Internet traffic that flowed through critical AT&T cables -- e-mails, documents, pictures, Web browsing, voice-over-Internet phone conversations, everything -- was being diverted to equipment inside the secret room," he said.
Klein, who worked for more than 20 years as a technician at AT&T, said that the highly secretive electronics-focused National Security Agency began working with telecom companies to gain wholesale access to vast amounts of data traveling over the Internet.
Klein was on Capitol Hill Wednesday attempting to convince lawmakers not to give a blanket, retroactive immunity to telecom companies for their secret cooperation with the government.
He said that as an AT&T technician overseeing Internet operations in San Francisco, he helped maintain optical splitters that diverted data en route to and from AT&T customers.
One day he found that the splitters were hard-wired into a secret room on the sixth floor.
Klein said only a management-level employee with NSA security clearance was allowed inside, but documents he obtained form AT&T showed that highly sophisticated data mining equipment was kept there.
Conversations he had with other technicians and the AT&T documents led Klein to believe there are 15 to 20 such sites nationwide, including in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Atlanta, he said.
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