Government Tapping CONTENT, Not Just Metadata of Americans’ Communications

We reported in 2008 that foreign companies have had key roles scooping up Americans’ communications for the NSA:

At least two foreign companies play key roles in processing the information.

Specifically, an Israeli company called Narus processes all of the information tapped by AT &T (AT & T taps, and gives to the NSA, copies of all phone calls it processes), and an Israeli company called Verint processes information tapped by Verizon (Verizon also taps, and gives to the NSA, all of its calls).

Business Insider notes today:

The newest information regarding the NSA domestic spying scandal raises an important question: If America’s tech giants didn’t ‘participate knowingly’ in the dragnet of electronic communication, how does the NSA get all of their data?

One theory: the NSA hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap the U.S. telecommunications network.

In April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported that two companies with extensive links to Israel’s intelligence service provided hardware and software the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA).

By doing so, this would imply, companies like Facebook and Google don’t have to explicitly provide the NSA with access to their servers because major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon already allows the U.S. signals intelligence agency to eavesdrop on all of their data anyway.

From Bamford (emphasis ours):

“According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon

At AT&T the wiretapping rooms arepowered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004.”

Klein, an engineer, discovered the “secret room” at AT&T central office in San Francisco, through which the NSA actively “vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” through the wiretapping rooms, emphasizing that “much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake corroborated Klein’s assertions, testifying that while the NSA is using Israeli-made NARUS hardware to “seize and save all personal electronic communications.”

Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s. …

Last December, top NSA whistleblower William Binney – a 32-year NSA veteran with the title of senior technical director, who headed the agency’s global digital data gathering program (featured in a New York Times documentary, and the source for much of what we know about NSA spying) – said that the government is using a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which allows the government to obtain:

Any data in any third party, like any commercial data that’s held about U.S. citizens …

Binney explained that the government is taking the position that it can gather and use any information about American citizens living on U.S. soil if it comes from:

Any service provider … any third party … any commercial company – like a telecom or internet service provider, libraries, medical companies – holding data about anyone, any U.S. citizen or anyone else.

I then asked the NSA veteran if the government’s claim that it is only spying on metadata – and not content – was correct. We have extensively documented that the government is likely recording content as well. (And the government has previously admitted to “accidentally” collecting more information on Americans than was legal, and then gagged the judges so they couldn’t disclose the nature or extent of the violations.)

Binney said that was not true; the government is gathering everything, including content.

Binney explained – as he has many times before – that the government is storing everything, and creating a searchable database … to be used whenever it wants, for any purpose it wants (even just going after someone it doesn’t like). …

Binney next confirmed the statement of the author of the Patriot Act – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner – that the NSA spying programs violate the Patriot Act. After all, the Patriot Act is focused on spying on external threats … not on Americans.

Binney asked rhetorically: “How can an American court [FISA or otherwise] tell telecoms to cough up all domestic data?!”

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/06/exclusive-top-nsa-whistleblower-spills-the-beans-on-the-real-scope-of-the-spying-program.html

Also see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcToxgr4xWw&feature=gv

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