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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

So, is your web surfing being monitored by the NSA?

Over at 27B Stroke 6, Kevin Poulson has a very ineresting post about what we currently know about the NSA's illegal wiretapping of phone and internet traffic to, from, and within the US. This knowledge comes from a statement by internet expert and former FCC advisor J. Scott Marcus [PDF file], filed last week with a federal court in Seattle as part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against AT&T for aiding the NSA in its wiretapping efforts.

Here are the conclusions that Marcus draws after examining formerly secret AT&T documents submitted to the court by EFF:

  • The AT&T documents are authentic. That AT&T insists they remain under seal is evidence enough of this, but Marcus points out that the writing style is pure Bell System, with the "meticulous attention to detail that is typical of AT&T operations."

  • There may be dozens of surveillance rooms in AT&T offices around the country. Among other things, Marcus finds that portions of the documents are written to cover a number of different equipment rack configurations, "consistent with a deployment to 15 to 20" secret rooms.

  • The internet surveillance program covers domestic traffic, not just international traffic. Marcus notes that the AT&T spy rooms are "in far more locations than would be required to catch the majority of international traffic"; the configuration in the San Francisco office promiscuously sends all data into the secret room; and there's no reliable way an analysis could infer a user's physical location from their IP address. This, of course, directly contradicts President Bush's description of the "Terrorist Surveillance Program."

  • The system is capable of looking at content, not just addresses. The configuration described in the Klein documents -- presumably the Narus software in particular -- "exists primarily to conduct sophisticated rule-based analysis of content", Marcus concludes.

The most interesting part of Marcus' analysis, says Poulson, is something we figured out the very first time we heard about the NSA's wiretapping room at AT&T San Francisco networking center: Any internet traffic that passes through that center can be monitored — regardless of where that traffic originates or where it was going. In other words, you're not safe if you don't use AT&T or one of its subsidiaries as your ISP. If your internet traffic goes through San Francisco, the NSA can check out what you're doing.

To help make this paranoia real, Poulson offers a simple test that any Windows user can run to see whether the NSA eavesdroppers might be listening in. (You'll find it near the bottom of his post.)

I just ran the test and — yes — Magpie's traffic goes through AT&T's San Francisco network center.

| | Posted by Magpie at 9:25 AM | Get permalink




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