Online Groups Reveal Details, Legalities Of NSA Surveillance - InformationWeek

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Online Groups Reveal Details, Legalities Of NSA Surveillance

One AT&T employee was required to connect fiber optic circuits carrying AT&T customers' private Internet-based data to a device that diverted that same data to a room controlled by the government, his lawyer wrote in papers filed in federal court last week.

Recent reports that the National Security Agency spied on Americans expand upon allegations in federal lawsuits alleging that telecommunications companies helped the NSA secretly spy on Americans.

In the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action lawsuit against AT&T, a former phone company technician explained how he thinks he unknowingly assisted the program toward the end of his 22-year career with the company. Though Mark Klein's declaration is under seal, other federal court documents provide a glimpse into how the retired AT&T communications technician believes his company cooperated. Internet liberties advocates claim the programs are illegal.

"Mr. Klein was required to connect fiber optic circuits carrying AT&T customers' private Internet-based data to a device that diverted that same data to a room controlled by the government," his layer wrote in papers filed in federal court last week. "When reports of the government's extensive surveillance program surfaced in December 2005, Mr. Klein realized that he was a witness to (and unwitting participant in) a massive effort that had the effect, if not the purpose, of violating the rights of millions of Americans."

Klein's lawyer also explained that Klein repaired and maintained fiber optic cables that carry Internet data from all over the world through an AT&T central switch in San Francisco.

"What he observed – that the signal carrying the Internet data over the fiber optic cables was "split" such that an exact copy of the data was redirected to the National Security Agency – had been the topic of public discussion months before he went public with his observations," court document state. The filings were part of an attempt to lift the seal from Klein's full statements, which would likely reveal even more detail.

Intelligence leaders and the White House claim the NSA has always operated within the law and that its surveillance programs are crucial for maintaining national security. They have argued military and state secrets privileges should allow them to keep the details of surveillance under wraps and that presidential war powers allow the surveillance.

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