It is supposed to be illegal for the NSA to spy on communications that are completely domestic, but that appears to be precisely what is happening.
According to a brand new report from Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke of the Intercept, NSA documents indicate that the NSA is systematically capturing our emails, our phone calls and our text messages at certain key strategic points on AT&T’s immensely powerful Internet network. There are only eight facilities that allow for direct access into AT&T’s “common backbone”, and thanks to leaked documents the Intercept was able to identify the exact location of each of those facilities…
Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.
Apparently the relationship between AT&T and the NSA has been ongoing “for decades”, and it isn’t just data from AT&T customers that is being collected.
In fact, according to an AT&T technician that worked for the company for 22 years, the NSA is able to capture “all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies”, and because of the nature of how the network functions, AT&T is “liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year”…
The data exchange between AT&T and other networks initially takes place outside AT&T’s control, sources said, at third-party data centers that are owned and operated by companies such as California’s Equinix. But the data is then routed – in whole or in part – through the eight AT&T buildings, where the NSA taps into it. By monitoring what it calls the “peering circuits” at the eight sites, the spy agency can collect “not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies,” according to Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who worked with the company for 22 years. It is an efficient point to conduct internet surveillance, Klein said, “because the peering links, by the nature of the connections, are liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year.”
The NSA appears to be engaged in a data collection program that is far beyond anything that we have ever seen before in human history.