Whistleblower: AT&T Maintained a 'Secret Room' for the NSA

Bringing his claims to Capitol Hill for the first time, former AT&T network technician Mark Klein appeared yesterday at a press conference to reiterate his astonishing claim: AT&T operated a 24 x 48-foot room in one of its network operations centers in San Francisco, where Klein discovered his employer was cooperating with the National Security Agency in the monitoring of all Internet traffic over a major backbone line.

"I have first-hand knowledge of the clandestine collaboration between one giant telecommunications company, AT&T, and the National Security Agency to facilitate the most comprehensive illegal domestic spying program in history," Klein remarked in his press conference yesterday.

Klein's allegations have been part of an ongoing class-action suit against AT&T since January 2006, funded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While he was not able to witness everyday goings-on in the "Secure Room," as an engineer, Klein was privy to how the room was wired. In a June 8 sworn deposition entered into evidence in this case, he described what he saw.

In January 2003, Klein was invited to tour the Folsom Street Facility of what was then known as SBC Communications. There he saw for the first time Room 641A, categorized as the "SG3 Secure Room." That fall, when he was hired to work at the facility, he noted that an NSA agent was interviewing field support specialists for clearance to be able to work in the Secure Room.

"To my knowledge, only employees cleared by the NSA were permitted to enter the SG3 Secure Room," Klein stated in his June deposition (PDF available here). "To gain entry to the SG3 Secure Room required both a physical key for the cylinder lock and a combination code number to be entered into an electronic keypad on the door. To my knowledge, only [two Field Support Specialists] had both the key and the combination code." But Klein, who often worked at Folsom alone, had keys to every other door except SG3.

As part of his job there, Klein installed new circuits to a fiberoptic "splitter cabinet," whose sole purpose, diagrams entered into evidence show, was to duplicate WorldNet service Internet traffic into SG3. The existence of this splitter suggests that the NSA had access to all the traffic on that circuit.

Klein was scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill again today, to appear as a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There, he expected a friendly audience before Chairman Patrick Leahy (D - Vt.), who opposes efforts by the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to grant immunity to telecom companies like AT&T, from prosecution for surveillance acts. Such an immunity grant would conceivably result in the dismissal of cases including Klein's.

While BetaNews had planned to cover Klein's remarks on Capitol Hill today, in a strange turn of events, the audio feed for the Senate Judiciary conference room was malfunctioning. A notice to that effect was posted to Web sites that had planned to carry the feed live. Transcripts or recordings of today's proceedings may yet be made available.

In the meantime, a federal judge in California moved yesterday to block AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint from destroying documents that may be subpoenaed into evidence in this case.

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