Government Tapping CONTENT, Not Just Metadata … Using Bogus “Secret Interpretation” of Patriot Act

We reported in 2008 that foreign companies have had key roles scooping up Americans’ communications for the NSA:

At least two foreign companies play key roles in processing the information.

Specifically, an Israeli company called Narus processes all of the information tapped by AT &T (AT & T taps, and gives to the NSA, copies of all phone calls it processes), and an Israeli company called Verint processes information tapped by Verizon (Verizon also taps, and gives to the NSA, all of its calls).

Business Insider notes today:

The newest information regarding the NSA domestic spying scandal raises an important question: If America’s tech giants didn’t ‘participate knowingly’ in the dragnet of electronic communication, how does the NSA get all of their data?

One theory: the NSA hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap the U.S. telecommunications network.

In April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported that two companies with extensive links to Israel’s intelligence service provided hardware and software the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA).

By doing so, this would imply, companies like Facebook and Google don’t have to explicitly provide the NSA with access to their servers because major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon already allows the U.S. signals intelligence agency to eavesdrop on all of their data anyway.

From Bamford (emphasis ours):

“According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon

At AT&T the wiretapping rooms are powered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004.”

Klein, an engineer, discovered the “secret room” at AT&T central office in San Francisco, through which the NSA actively “vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” through the wiretapping rooms, emphasizing that “much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake corroborated Klein’s assertions, testifying that while the NSA is using Israeli-made NARUS hardware to “seize and save all personal electronic communications.”

Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s.

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Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record,” Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California company, said. “We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls.”

With a telecom wiretap the NSA only needs companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to passively participate while the agency to intercepts, stores, and analyzes their communication data. The indirect nature of the agreement would provide tech giants with plausible deniability.

And having a foreign contractor bug the telecom grid would mean that the NSA gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without technically doing it themselves.

This would provide the NSA, whose official mission is to spy on foreign communications, with plausible deniability regarding domestic snooping.

The reason that Business Insider is speculating about the use of private Israeli companies to thwart the law is that 2 high-ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Senators Wyden and Udall – have long said that the government has adopted a secret interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act which would shock Americans, because it provides a breathtakingly wide program of spying.

Last December, top NSA whistleblower William Binney – a 32-year NSA veteran with the title of senior technical director, who headed the agency’s global digital data gathering program (featured in a New York Times documentary, and the source for much of what we know about NSA spying) – said that the government is using a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which allows the government to obtain:

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