NSA, the secret AT&T spy room, 2 Israeli companies, and loss of American privacy
by Jon Rappoport
June 9, 2013
“Boom. Explosive revelations. The NSA is using telecom giants to spy on anybody and everybody, in a program called PRISM.
But the information is not new.
Three books have been written about the super-secret NSA, and James Bamford has written them all.
In 2008, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Bamford as his latest book, The Shadow Factory, was being released.
Bamford explained that, in the 1990s, everything changed for NSA. Previously, they’d been able to intercept electronic communications by using big dishes to capture what was coming down to Earth from telecom satellites.
But with the shift to fiber-optic cables, NSA was shut out. So they devised new methods.
For example, they set up a secret spy room at an AT&T office in San Francisco. NSA installed new equipment that enabled them to tap into the fiber-optic cables and suck up all traffic.
How Bamford describes this, in 2008, tells you exactly where the PRISM program came from:
“NSA began making these agreements with AT&T and other companies, and that in order to get access to the actual cables, they had to build these secret rooms in these buildings.
“So what would happen would be the communications on the cables would come into the building, and then the cable would go to this thing called a splitter box, which was a box that had something that was similar to a prism, a glass prism.
“And the prism was shaped like a prism, and the light signals would come in, and they’d be split by the prism. And one copy of the light signal would go off to where it was supposed to be going in the telecom system, and the other half, this new cloned copy of the cables, would actually go one floor below to NSA’s secret room.
“… And in the secret room was equipment by a private company called Narus, the very small company hardly anybody has ever heard of that created the hardware and the software to analyze these cables and then pick out the targets NSA is looking for and then forward the targeted communications onto NSA headquarters.”
In James Bamford’s 2008 interview, he mentions two Israeli companies, Narus and Verint, that almost nobody knew about. They played a key role in developing and selling the technology that allowed NSA to deploy its PRISM spying program:
Bamford: “Yeah. There’s two major — or not major, they’re small companies, but they service the two major telecom companies. This company, Narus, which was founded in Israel and has large Israel connections, does the — basically the tapping of the communications on AT&T. And Verizon chose another company, ironically also founded in Israel and largely controlled by and developed by people in Israel called Verint.
“So these two companies specialize in what’s known as mass surveillance. Their literature — I read this literature from Verint, for example — is supposed to only go to intelligence agencies and so forth, and it says, ‘We specialize in mass surveillance,’ and that’s what they do.
“They put [this] mass surveillance equipment in these facilities. So you have AT&T, for example, that, you know, considers it’s their job to get messages from one person to another, not tapping into messages, and you get the NSA that says, we want, you know, copies of all this. So that’s where these [two Israeli] companies come in. These companies act as the intermediary basically between the telecom companies and the NSA.”
AMY GOODMAN: “Now, Jim Bamford, take this a step further, because you say the founder and former CEO of one of these companies [Verint] is now a fugitive from the United States somewhere in Africa?”
JAMES BAMFORD: “…the company that Verizon uses, Verint, the founder of the company, the former head of the company, is now a fugitive in — hiding out in Africa in the country of Namibia, because he’s wanted on a number of felony warrants for fraud and other charges. And then, two other top executives of the company, the general counsel and another top official of the parent company, have also pled guilty to these charges.
“So, you know, you’ve got companies — these [two] companies have foreign connections with potential ties to foreign intelligence agencies, and you have problems of credibility, problems of honesty and all that. And these companies — through these two companies pass probably 80 percent or more of all US communications at one point or another.
“And it’s even — gets even worse in the fact that these companies also supply their equipment all around the world to other countries, to countries that don’t have a lot of respect for individual rights —- Vietnam, China, Libya, other countries like that. And so, these countries use this equipment to filter out dissident communications and people trying to protest the government. It gives them the ability to eavesdrop on communications and monitor dissident email communications. And as a result of that, people are put in jail, and so forth…”
AMY GOODMAN: “And despite all of this…these telecom companies still have access to the most private communications of people all over America and actually, it ends up, around the world. And at the beginning of the summer , the Democrats and Republicans joined together in granting retroactive immunity to these companies for spying on American citizens.””