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AT&T Seeks to Hide Spy Docs 157

Posted by Zonk
from the let-me-know-how-that-works-out dept.
UltimaGuy writes to mention a Wired article about some AT&T documents that have gone off the farm. An ex-employee provided some information to the EFF, to assist in their wiretapping case against the company. Ma Bell is now arguing the files are confidential, and shouldn't be used in a court case. From the article: "The documents, which the EFF filed under a temporary seal last Wednesday, purportedly detail how AT&T diverts internet traffic to the National Security Agency via a secret room in San Francisco and allege that such rooms exist in other AT&T switching centers."
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AT&T Seeks to Hide Spy Docs

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  • by taumeson (240940) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:49AM (#15120116)
    If a civilian has the docs, they can go after him, but there's no fourth amendment protections here. It'd take somebody in the administration classifying them to make them officially restricted.

    Just cause AT&T doesn't want them out there doesn't mean squat.
    • It'd take somebody in the administration classifying them to make them officially restricted.

      The irony of this statement these days is too thick to comprehend at 9:30 in the morning.

    • Not quite... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheNoxx (412624) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @12:39PM (#15122076) Homepage Journal
      If an employee knows that his company is committing an illegal act, then it is his or her prerogative to alert the public and the judicial system; this is what is known as the "whistleblower" status. Whether or not the documents involved are confidential has absolutely no bearing.

      The only shady part is whether or not the Patriot Act or other rights-inhibiting measures can cover AT&T's ass, or the asses of the agencies involved. If the Patriot Act had not been passed, believe me, AT&T would be in a world of shit.
      • >If an employee knows that his company is committing an illegal act, then it is his or her responsibility to alert the public and the judicial system

        There, fixed that for ya.
        (at least in the world I want to live in =-) )
        • Agreed. :) I've got an urge to ramble on about the complete lack of democratic influence over corporations giving modern morality a good beating, but... I'll just add you to the friends list.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:49AM (#15120117) Journal
    You may recall that Philip Zimmermann was the subject of a criminal investigation over ten years ago over a little asymmetric key encryption program he wrote and made available online.

    Recently, he has worked to give the world a very simple program that will encrypt voice communications for any SIP VoIP. It's called Zfone [philzimmermann.com] and this news about AT&T working with the NSA covertly is all the more reason you should use it.

    I believe Slashdot covered [slashdot.org] Zfone's release a month ago.

    As an American, I value my anonymity and ability to communicate without concern of eaves dropping very highly. I hope to see some VoIP services possibly use Zfone or some level of encryption as a default out of the box feature in the future. If you're concerned for your privacy, read up on Zfone and find out how easy it is to use!
  • Legal Action (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:51AM (#15120122)

    I just wonder how long it will be before Mark Klein is repaid for his heroic and patriotic act with legal action from AT&T, a la Stephen Heller / Diebold.
    • I just wonder how long it will be before Mark Klein is repaid for his heroic and patriotic act with legal action from AT&T, a la Stephen Heller / Diebold

      what i want to know is how long is it going to be before we start boycotting at&t? c'mon! i already changed my webmail provider to one that didn't traceroute over obviously at&t-owned lines. it's fun and easy!

  • Hold (Score:5, Funny)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:55AM (#15120145)

    The EFF declined to comment on the filing, while AT&T did not return a call seeking comment.

    The call was placed in a queue while all available agents were attending to other customers.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:56AM (#15120147)
    The problem is that stuff like this DOES NOT help fight terrorism, as the NSA would content. It just makes it even harder to find the important intelligence, because it's drowned out by all the noise.

    -Eric

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:05AM (#15120185)
      The problem is that stuff like this DOES NOT help fight terrorism, as the NSA would content. It just makes it even harder to find the important intelligence, because it's drowned out by all the noise.

      First, this does help fight terrorism iff ALL traffic goes through it, and the terrorist uses it.

      Now, with that said, what makes you think that this limited to ATT? Because people on /. have not seen it? because EFF has not found all the evidence?

      Next what is making people think that Al Qaeda, who received CIA training (thanks to reagan) to survive, does not know that they will be monitored and is actively not on the wire?

      The problem is that this system is targeted at terrorism, but with the patriot act, it allows all this power to actively be used against americans. Worse, we have now seen that the white house consists of cowards, liars, and traitors. There is no doubt that they are using this system for their personal use. If nothing else, do you remember the East Coast Democrat mayor who was being tracked? There is a LOT of circumstanstial evidence of the feds using all this against Americans. By itself, no big deal. By taken as a whole, and it should be apparent that we are not the land of the free, but we are recruiting the USSR but with capitalism thrown in.

      • First, this does help fight terrorism iff ALL traffic goes through it, and the terrorist uses it.

        No, because he's well hidden by the terrabytes of crap. Better to use less crude forms of intelligence to specifically target people like him in the first place, rather than just throwing a wide net over EVERYONE and praying that we notice the terrorist in the crowd.

        Two fisherman:

        One fisherman says "I'm going to fish for salmon. I'm going up to Alaska during this year's salmon run. And I'm using a salmon tra

      • by typical (886006) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:35AM (#15120368) Journal
        The problem is that this system is targeted at terrorism, but with the patriot act, it allows all this power to actively be used against americans.

        History teaches us that this should not be a surprise [wikipedia.org]. Give the federal government excessive police powers ("But we need to hunt *communists*!") and they *will* abuse it.

        Hitler was ahead of his time. We already tried claiming that we needed expanded police powers to hunt "communists". Now we're claiming that we need them to hunt "terrorists". Hitler just took the Reichstag fire and demanded more powers because he needed to hunt "communist terrorists".
      • Actually after 9/11 it came out that the NSA was giving WAY to much info to other agencies (that it was allowed to) the problem was, it was tiny nuggets of useful info in a sea of info that was just plain useless so the dots could not be really connected in what was provided.
      • "what makes you think that this limited to ATT"

        It isn't. An elite BellSouth tech with 30+ years experience told me about a similar secret monitoring room in downtown Atlanta he had worked on in the mid-to-late '90s. He implied that it was FBI-run, but that there was no effective company monitoring of the extent of the tapping.
        • Actually, all RBOCS have those. They are known (not well-known, but known) by those that work at the RBOCS. What you described was a federal or black room. That is where the feds do the taps. All of these are suppose to be LEGAL wiretaps. From what I have heard, several people go in together and verify who is being tapped. (I worked one floor up from the black room in one of my stints for USWest).

          The NSA taps are not being taken from these rooms. They are taken elsewhere.
    • Truth or Scare? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes and no.... In a perfect world, yes -- it would help fight terrorism; even if the terrorists are using encryption there is meta-data there to be mined.... when you cross-reference the data begin and end points you can still get the jist of what may be going on; do so with *ALL* traffic on the 'net and you can certainly learn something useful.

      On the other hand, it would have been clear to a child that Osama and friends were going to take over commerical jets for nefarious deeds long before 9-11 if they'd
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:42AM (#15120428)
      The problem is that stuff like this DOES NOT help fight terrorism, as the NSA would content.

      No, that's not the problem. The problem is that they're spying on their own people as a matter of course, eavesdropping on our communications, reading our mail.

      Whether or not it helps fight terrorism is irrelevant. Even if it could prevent another September 11th, it would still be unacceptable.

      • by BVis (267028) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @10:51AM (#15121009)
        Kind of OT, feel free to moderate as such:

        This reminds me of an argument I had with someone a couple months ago regarding the importance of privacy vs. the importance of preventing terrorism. I argued that if we give up our privacy, sure, MAYBE they could gather enough intelligence and interpret it correctly to avoid another 9/11 - scale attack. (That's a BIG maybe. Personally I don't trust a government agency to tell me the sky is blue.) However, this doesn't protect American citizens.

        That might not make sense until you take the position that once we give up those rights (which were so important to the Founding Fathers that they put them in the first few amendments to the constitution; I'm thinking first and fourth are most relevant) we are no longer American citizens. We're people who happen to live in the same country.

        It's not worth giving up our national identity or constitutional rights/ideals for an indeterminate amount of increased security. The person I was arguing with said that if it saves just one life it's worth it; I said one life is not worth the subjugation of 300 million. It's not even close.

        So then he trotted out the old "if you're not doing anything wrong what do you have to worry about" chestnut. I'm sorry, I don't want the US government to know who I talk to, who I associate with, what religon I observe, what newspapers I read, and what factors I consider when deciding when to take legal action. (Bonus points if you recognize what those five things have in common.) It's just not any of their business! Plus, it starts to have a chilling effect on what topics are "acceptable" to discuss and which ones make you an "enemy of the state". The temptation to abuse that information is just too great, and I don't trust an elected official to make that decision objectively. What one person considers treason (clearly illegal) another considers civil disobedience (legal so long as no other illegal acts are committed, protected by the Constitution.)

        • All specifically mentioned in the First Amendment to the US Constitution
        • So then he trotted out the old "if you're not doing anything wrong what do you have to worry about" chestnut.

          I often wonder about the mentality of people who say things like this. Do they simply think that they will be somehow immune from the effects of an all knowing government? Do they just not care? Do they even understand?

          Perhaps it's simply gross naivity. The government is "good", ergo, to oppose the government is "bad". You're not "bad" are you?
        • So then he trotted out the old "if you're not doing anything wrong what do you have to worry about" chestnut.

          The big problem with that argument is that what constitutes 'wrong' is subject to cange without notice and that sometimes, a corrupt government or official in that government might decide that insisting on your rights or that your vote be counted is 'wrong'. In the past, the FBI decided that demanding an end to racism was 'wrong'. Nixon decided that being a Democrat was 'wrong'. McCarthy decided

    • Indeed. John Allen Paulos has a very good explanation, available here [go.com] of why a dragnet system, even with incredible accuracy, will still return a staggering number of false positives. Watch out for some pretty strong political opinions mixed in with sound mathematical reasoning.

      The basic idea is that so few people are actually terrorists that any dragnet search will necessarily return more false positives than real leads.

      And, just to make their job harder: Gonzales nuclear assasinate device
  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:57AM (#15120154) Journal
    AT&T is seeking the return of technical documents presented in a lawsuit that allegedly detail how the telecom giant helped the government set up a massive internet wiretap operation in its San Francisco facilities.

    In papers filed late Monday, AT&T argued that confidential technical documents provided by an ex-AT&T technician to the Electronic Frontier Foundation shouldn't be used as evidence in the case and should be returned.

    Big whoop. Copy the documents and hand them back to AT&T. What's the problem? Now that the genie is out of the secret room, so to speak, how does AT&T think this is going to help? They've just received a pretty severe black eye, though most of the public really doesn't know the details, despite the publicity. If I were AT&T, I'd maintain a low profile -- raising a fuss only makes more people get interested in what's in the documents.

  • Somehow the new AT&T doesn't seem a whole lot different than the old AT&T. They are like the T1000 from T2 [wikipedia.org]. It gets chopped up but re-forms. I remember an old cartoon, a Bloom County [berkeleybreathed.com], I think, that showed the AT&T symbol and they screamed "Death Star!"
  • Land of the Free (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mtenhagen (450608)
    And all of this in "The land of the Free". Makes you wonder.
    • It is said that information wants to be free. This information was just going on a vacation.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It used to be written with an "R" but for the last 6 years it has been changed without the public knowledge. Now it's the land of FEE FEE FEE PAY PAY PAY, sucker! We own You! Your supreme corporate chairman organization.
    • Did anyone really believe in this stuff anyway ?
      (I mean inside the US)
      • All americans I know have escaped to The Netherlands and they believe that the US should be free.

        And here there still not in "The land of the Free" but atleast they can smoke a joint without getting thrown in jail.
    • You are free to vote for and elect a leader that will erode your civil liberties.

      -Rick
      • Modern elections for major offices here in America:

        Two candidates (well, two that stand any chance of getting elected because the Libertarians are too fragmented)

        (presidential debate on television)
        Jack Johnson: It's time someone had the courage to stand up and say: I'm against those things that everybody hates!
        John Jackson: I respect my opponent, I think he's a good man, but quite frankly I agree with everything he just said!

        (at planet express)
        Fry: These are the canidates? They sound like clones. Wait a min
    • And all of this in "The land of the Free". Makes you wonder.
      "Land of the Free!"*


      *Some restrictions apply...
  • by Malor (3658) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:02AM (#15120169) Journal
    The submitter didn't point out that if AT&T is claiming the documents are trade secrets, that means they're accurate. Made-up documents wouldn't be trade secrets.

    In other words, AT&T has just admitted that they are spying on you.
    • So there are indeed some protections on these documents in that case....not to mention copyright, of course.

      But all that means is that they'll stay sealed and part of the court case...they won't go public, but they won't be ignored.
    • by tweakt (325224) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:36AM (#15120387) Homepage
      In other words, AT&T has just admitted that they are spying on you.

      Sorry, but that's bullshit.

      Defending your privacy has nothing to do with admitting guilt. Do you think there could possibly be trade secrets in those documents somehow unrelated to the charges against AT&T?

      A good example here might be a court trying to admit as evidence your complete credit card purchase history in an attempt to prove acts of terrorism. Even if there was *nothing* in there linking you to terrorism, you might seriously object to the disclosure of it, would you not? And I just love double standard concept of law... Should have two versions of the law, one where corporations are Guilty until proven innocent?

      I'd love to see them nailed against the wall as much as the next guy, but let's not become hypocrits in the process, ok? AT&T has the right to contest public disclosure of internal documents as much as you do.

      • You don't get it, do you? They wouldn't object if the documents were fake. They would simply say, "those aren't real documents" and fight them.

        The fact that they are claiming that the documents are private means they're correct.
      • And I just love double standard concept of law... Should have two versions of the law, one where corporations are Guilty until proven innocent?

        YES! People have rights - they're people. Corporations have no entitlement to the same rights.

        • YES! People have rights - they're people. Corporations have no entitlement to the same rights.

          So, does that mean I can get the local DA go to your place of business/employer and impound all computers, papers, products, etc... without charge and without having to ever give the items back in a reasonable time? I'm sorry, but BS like this breaks down when you actually consider the consequences of what this would mean.

          For businesses:
          No freedom of speech so no advertising, no talking about the product and
          • All of your points are valid but do nothing to excuse giving a non-living entity, with indefinate lifespan, and the power of many people, the same rights as a real citizen. While I don't think that most of your points should be allowed, those should be taken care of by a different set of laws. Companies are social and governmental constructs they should not be able to hide behind privacy as a normal citizen.
            • If by privacy, you mean trade secrets and such, then it sound like what you are talking about would essentially legalize corporate espionage. The "privacy" of a company is not necessarily related to trade secrets, but it is similar. Would you allow anyone to legally publicize/sell a companies recipies, business plans or other items that are kept secret in order to ensure that they have a chance of competing with others in the market?

              What is required for something to be considered a "Trade Secret" is th
          • So, does that mean I can get the local DA go to your place of business/employer and impound all computers, papers, products, etc... without charge and without having to ever give the items back in a reasonable time?

            No, because a corporation would have no way of owning property in the first place. If we allow them to hold property, we define some sensible terms under which they do so.

            No freedom of speech so no advertising,

            Sounds good to me. Of course there are instances in which it makes sense to permit a

          • Most of your arguments don't make any sense.

            No freedom of speech so no advertising, no talking about the product and they can't say anything at all.

            Uh, no. "Freedom of speech" means "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech...". Guess what -- businesses already have their speech "abridged". Little restrictions against things like false advertising, the phrase "FDA has not approved these statements", etc. And guess what - it's not because Congress passed a law saying companies couldn't
        • More correctly, they shouldn't, but do.
        • "YES! People have rights - they're people. Corporations have no entitlement to the same rights."

          Unfortunately, this nation's courts disagree with you.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation [wikipedia.org]

          Corporations are accorded all the rights and freedoms of an actual person. When that doctrine was established was the beginning of the rise of corporate dominance, the end of corporate accountability and the point at which we lost all ability to control what corporations did to our countries, our environment, our govern
      • If the cops run through your house looking for an escaped con running around your neighborhood, and happen upon your marijuana growing lab in your basement, you're gonna be busted.

        Just like those people who were stuck in the snow in southern Oregon for a couple of weeks, where a couiple of them had outstanding warrants for their arrest in Arizona for methamphetamine production/distribution...
      • (quoting some Wired one-sentence paragraphs from the article)

        "In papers filed late Monday, AT&T argued that confidential technical documents provided by an ex-AT&T technician to the Electronic Frontier Foundation shouldn't be used as evidence in the case and should be returned.

        The documents, which the EFF filed under a temporary seal last Wednesday, purportedly detail how AT&T diverts internet traffic to the National Security Agency via a secret room in San Francisco and allege that such rooms e
      • And I just love double standard concept of law... Should have two versions of the law, one where corporations are Guilty until proven innocent?

        Not double standard, but a higher standard. We must hold those that we put into a position of power to a higher standard. I believe those who write and enforce the law(or have undue influence) should pay a much higher price if they break it. Then they might be more careful about the laws they write. We must remind them that their jobs exist to serve us.
  • by Zephyros (966835) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:04AM (#15120178)
    *waves hand* "These are not the documents you are looking for."
  • Echelon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ceriel Nosforit (682174) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:21AM (#15120264)
    Echelon. I'm surprised no one has mentioned so far.

    More info, for those who has never heard of it before:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON [wikipedia.org]
  • This seemed particularly relevant.

    "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:25AM (#15120276) Homepage Journal
    Ma Bell is now arguing the files are confidential, and shouldn't be used in a court case.

    I feel for AT&T, I really do. I mean, how would I feel if someone decided to use all those confidential dead hookers in my personal, private basement as some sort of "evidence" in some "trial?" I'd be shocked, I tell you. Shocked.
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:31AM (#15120331)
    If only at&t had fully deployed an email and document server which used the Trusted Platform Module [slashdot.org] to help "protect" the confidentiality of their documents, then they wouldn't have this little problem of the public finding out they're being "protected" by the nsa
    • And you know ... that's one of the best objections to Trusted Computing there is, and one of the most important reasons the big boys are pushing for it. That much less accountability (as if they really have any now, any bets AT&T gets off with a wrist-slap on this one? Anyone?)
  • so... let's hear from those with at least a little more legal knowledge than me (defined as some). How is his handing the papers to the EFF different than an ex-employee of a chemical company handing documents detailing improper waste disposal methods to the newspaper? If the court rules these documents inadmissable because of the company's IP concerns, wouldn't the same apply to the latter case?

    Discuss amongst yourselves...

  • From TFA: Klein's duties included connecting new fiber-optic circuits to that room, which housed data-mining equipment built by a company called Narus, according to his statement. Ok, so from Narus' site, the profile of a member of the Board of Directors: William P. Crowell William P. Crowell is an independent security consultant and holds several board positions with a variety of technology and technology-based security companies. Since 9/11 he has served on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agenc
    • Curse you, HTML Formatting, curse you!

      Let's try that again...

      From TFA:

      Klein's duties included connecting new fiber-optic circuits to that room, which housed data-mining equipment built by a company called Narus, according to his statement.

      Ok, so from Narus' site, the profile of a member of the Board of Directors:

      William P. Crowell

      William P. Crowell is an independent security consultant and holds several board positions with a variety of technology and technology-based security companies. Since 9/11 he has s
    • Please mod this post UP! Very nice set of linkages (assuming they are all correct.)
  • I vaguely recall a case in which an inventor was denied the right to pursue a patent infringement case based upon the grounds of government security concerns. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the specific circumstances of the case, perhaps someone else can help me clarify. Nevertheless...

    If the government decides that this case threatens national security this case will never make it to the deposition stage...much less a trial hearing. AT&T merely has to seek intervention from the government on thei
  • You're telling me that the place they're doing this is SAN FRANCISCO? Are you kidding me?

    They don't think that people in that city would storm the offices where this is going on (well, supposedly going on)?

    That's exactly what would happen. Wouldn't even matter if the story were true or not.
    • Sadly, the American public has become too apathetic to take any significant action on this or other questionable matters. Regardless of which side of the political fence you fall on there has been enough questionable activity by our government leaders as individuals or a collective that the outcry should have been louder than it has been. I just don't think people care anymore, or they believe that their voice won't be heard.

      The best that can be hoped for is that people will flip-off the AT&T build
  • They want to keep the documents out of court because they say they are confidential. Well what about my internet traffic that was intended to be confidential also. They had no problem sending that to the NSA. I say they loose any right they might have had to confidentiality. What is good for the goose is good for the gander!
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @11:25AM (#15121300) Homepage Journal
    If ATT's not doing anything wrong, what have they got to hide?

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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