Total Information Awareness* is Here

Yesterday Joseph Cannon put up a disturbing post about the American company that made it possible for Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian government to shut down the internet in Egypt, making it much more difficult for Egyptians to communicate over social media like Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to read Cannon’s post and watch the Democracy Now video that he included.

The company is Narus, located in Sunnyvale, CA. The company was purchased by Boeing last summer.

I was intrigued enough to do a little more reading about Narus, and thought I’d add a bit to what Cannon had to say.

According to Wikipedia, Narus (emphasis added)

is notable for being the creator of NarusInsight, a supercomputer system which is allegedly used by the NSA and other bodies to perform mass surveillance and monitoring of citizens’ and corporations’ Internet communications in real-time, and whose installation in AT&T’s San Francisco Internet backbone gave rise to a 2006 class action lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T, Hepting v. AT&T.

That’s the NSA spying program that supposedly targeted only foreign communications, but actually spied on all of us.

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation site, I found this report by Brian Reid, who is described as a “telecommunications expert.” He is also a former electrical engineer professor at Stanford and computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University West. Reid was asked by the EFF to examine the technology used by AT&T in the spying program. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:

NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade, MD

This infrastructure is capable of monitoring all traffic passing through the AT&T facility (some of it not even from AT&T customers), whether voice or data or fax, international or domestic. The most likely use of this infrastructure is wholesale, untargeted surveillance of ordinary Americans at the behest of the NSA. NSA involvement undermines arguments that the facility is intended for use by AT&T in protecting its own network operations.

This infrastructure is not limited to, nor would it be especially efficient for, targeted surveillance, or even untargeted surveillance aimed at communications where one of the ends is located outside the United States. It is also not reasonably aimed at supporting AT&T operations and security procedures.

Reid explains that the equipment he examined “is far more powerful and expensive than that needed to do targeted surveillance or surveillance aimed only at international or one-end foreign communications.” Furthermore:

The documents describe a secret, private backbone network separate from the public network where normal AT&T customer traffic is carried transmitted. A separate backbone network would not be required for transmission of the smaller amounts of data captured via targeted surveillance. You don’t need that magnitude of transport capacity if you are doing targeted surveillance.

The bottom line is that the equipment used to provide data to the NSA for Bush’s spying program was designed to spy on ordinary American citizens–not foreign terrorists.

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