|The NSA: Operation enduring eavesdropping||
“A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people. They will be asked to give up some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms,” wrote the authors of United States National Security Council Report 68 dated 14 April 1950. One of the benefits associated with freedom that American citizens have been asked to give up by the U.S. government is their privacy and soon, no electronic form of communication between individuals or businesses will escape the scrutiny of the so-called intelligence community.
The National Security Agency (NSA), the most elusive of U.S. secret intelligence services, plans to collect data from virtually everyone’s intercommunications and store them in a gargantuan data storage facility now under construction in Bluffdale, Utah, some 40 km south of Salt Lake City. Located on a 100-hectare site, the facility will have its own 65-megawatt electrical substation and a dedicated refrigeration plant to keep the supercomputers cool. Part of a vast global intelligence network, the state-of-the-art Utah Data Center will allow the stealth agency to process even encrypted communications by means of code-deciphering supercomputers and store the results in support of worldwide U.S. espionage operations.
The headquarters of the NSA, located at Fort Meade, Maryland about 24 km southwest of Baltimore, has parking for 18,000 vehicles and its own exit from Maryland Route 295. According to their mission statement, the agency “leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances”. Created in 1952 during the Truman administration, the NSA oversees a vast eavesdropping empire that includes the world’s largest group of supercomputers, research and development facilities for advanced communications technology and cryptography, and its own semiconductor chip manufacturing plant. Recent additions to NSA’s long list of facilities include a new $358 million operations center in Wahiawa, Oahu, Hawaii onstream 6 January 2012, and a new $286 million cryptologic center in Augusta, Georgia onstream 5 March 2012.
The extent of NSA’s reach goes far beyond mere espionage, since the agency plays a crucial role in computer research and development. One of its stated goals is to “[d]eliver next generation capabilities and solutions that meet the challenges of tomorrow and drive solutions from invention to operation in support of national security and U.S. Government missions”. In the past, the NSA would purchase two or three of every computer the mainframe manufacturers produced at a time when commercial demand could not justify production of even one. The NSA financed the first transistorized computer and bankrolled Seymour Cray’s first supercomputer, all with the objective of developing fast and efficient algorithms to break the codes used by foreign governments to encrypt their messages.
The involvement of the NSA in the forefront of computer and cryptography research and technology led to a shadowy connection with Crypto-AG, a Swiss firm specializing in communications encryption equipment. Suspicions of collusion between Crypto AG and the NSA surfaced after U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced that he had irrefutable evidence from intercepted diplomatic messages linking former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing in which two U.S. servicemen were killed.
By law, the NSA is restricted to gathering foreign intelligence, but with the proliferation of cellular telecommunications and the internet, the distinction between domestic and international communications has become blurred. For example, a cell phone call between two Americans in the same city may first be relayed outside the U.S. and then back inside, technically making the call “international”. Legally, one party of any NSA-intercepted conversation must be outside the United States, but the NSA, with the help of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, has amassed a huge database of over a trillion detail records of phone calls placed by Americans from within the country.
Former AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed his employer’s secret plans to collaborate with the NSA in its domestic spying program in 2004. According to Klein, AT&T began building secret rooms with cypher locks on the doors and “splitters”, devices to split off part of the light signal in a fiber optic cable for examination. These secret rooms and their associated equipment would allow scrutiny of all communications passing through the cable, thus giving the NSA -- or anyone with the code to the cypher lock for that matter -- access to the private conversations of millions of people without the need of warrants or other legal hindrances.
While authorities attempted to justify increased electronic eavesdropping following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it appears that the NSA was already planning to ramp up surveillance long before that date. Documents from the Federal court case of former QWest chief executive, Joseph Nacchio, revealed that the NSA had pressured the telecom giant for customers’ account information seven months before the 9/11 attacks. This clearly contradicts the claims by NSA and others in the so-called intelligence community that the push for warrantless wiretapping came after the alleged terrorist attacks. Apparently, AT&T already was involved in a project to build a facility to monitor long distance phone calls and internet traffic for exclusive use by the NSA. It is ironic that former CEO Nacchio was convicted on charges of insider trading after refusing NSA’s overtures and lucrative contract proposals because he felt the operation would be illegal while AT&T zealously jumped on the offer and violated customer privacy.
Of course, the NSA would deny any attempt at skirting its legal restrictions or constitutional limitations, as one of the statements of its core values posted on its website testifies: “Lawfulness -- We will adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the laws and regulations of the United States.” While Mr. Nacchio would probably take exception to the above lawfulness value, no doubt he would concede that the NSA statement of vision comes closer to the truth: “Our Vision -- Global Cryptologic Dominance through Responsive Presence and Network Advantage”.
The NSA is but one facet of a worldwide surveillance campaign, which involves an estimated 1271 government organizations and 1931 private companies, carried out by the United States in hopes of perpetuating its superpower status. The perpetually paranoid U.S. plutocrats, fearing the loss of their lucrative position of global dominance, have mandated this massive monitoring of everyone’s communications, including those of its own citizens and have spared no expense in its implementation. The fortress-like $2 billion Utah Data Center is merely the latest addition to this campaign which rightfully should be dubbed “Operation Enduring Eavesdropping”.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader