A new report from The Intercept sheds light on the NSA’s close relationship with communications provider AT&T.
The Intercept has successfully identified the eight facilities across the U.S that functions as hubs for AT&T’s where they collaborate with the intelligence agency. The site at first identified one potential hub of this kind in 2017 in lower Manhattan.
The report has revealed that eight AT&T data facilities in the U.S are regarded as one of the high value sites to the NSA for giving the agency direct “backbone” access to raw data that passes through, including emails, web browsing, social media and any other form of unencrypted online activity. The NSA is using the web of eight AT&T hubs for surveillance operation code-named FAIRVIEW, a program which was first established in the 1985, “involves tapping into the international telecommunication cables, routers, and switches” and only coordinates directly with AT&T and not the other major U.S mobile carriers.
AT&T has a deep involvement with the NSA monitoring program operated under the code name SAGUARO. Messaging, email and all other web traffic which can be accessed through the program was made searchable through XKEYSCORE, one of the NSA’s most infamous search surveillance tools.
The Intercept explains deeply that how those sites give the NSA access to data beyond just AT&T subscribers:
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.
The NSA explains these locations as “peering link router complex” sites while the AT&T calls them “Service Node Routing Complexes” (SNRCs). These eight complexes are spread around the nation most major cities, with the locations of, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. The Intercept report has identified these below facilities.
Among the pinpointed buildings, there is a nuclear blast-resistant, windowless facility in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; in Washington, D.C., a fortress-like, concrete structure less than half a mile south of the U.S. Capitol; in Chicago, an earthquake-resistant skyscraper in the West Loop Gate area; in Atlanta, a 429-foot art deco structure in the heart of the city’s downtown district; and in Dallas, a cube-like building with narrow windows and large vents on its exterior, located in the Old East district.
… in downtown Los Angeles, a striking concrete tower near the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Staples Center, two blocks from the most important internet exchange in the region; in Seattle, a 15-story building with blacked-out windows and reinforced concrete foundations, near the city’s waterfront; and in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, a building where it was previously claimed that the NSA was monitoring internet traffic from a secure room on the sixth floor.
These facilities could allow for the monitoring of domestic U.S traffic, they are also processing the vast quantities of international traffic as it moves around to the globe.