It would seem FISA is kind of back on our radar screen again. Much of the debate here stuns me, and not much of it positive. The biggest thing is I sense we are debating something technical, and something that most don't understand. So I want to repost what I wrote several months ago. This is why you should be pissed, cause what our government is doing is pretty darn staggering.
I wanted to take a couple minutes and attempt to add something to the FISA debate. People like Glenn Greenwald and front-pager mcjoan have done a stellar job of pulling back the multiple layers of the onion as it relates to the FISA debate and telecom immunity. They get at the core of the issues better then anybody around. A great service that the MSM can't seem to do themselves.
But I still find something lacking in their coverage, which is an actual analysis of what we know the government is doing from a technology point-of-view.
It is my belief that many people here and in the progressive blogsphere get the core of the issue and are more than a little concerned. But I also sense if they really, really understood what was going on and/or what was being done they'd be freaked out by a factor of 10.
Part of the reason I think this is happening is most folks just don't understand how the Internet works or where we are from a technology point-of-view. I think a little background info is needed. So lets start there.
Companies like AT&T purchase very powerful data networking switches that sort traffic. Any email you send, web site you want to visit, IM received comes through one of these switches. What do I mean by powerful:
Cisco, which is based in San Jose, California, and is the world's largest producer of network equipment, offered a range of examples to try to capture the significance of the increase in speed. It said the switch could transfer all 90,000 Netflix movies in 38.4 seconds or send a two megapixel digital image to every human being on Earth in 28 minutes.
Ponder not one of these switches but dozens of them sitting in the NOC (Network Operations Center) of AT&T or Verizon. It is like the router in your house or office building is a light blub. What AT&T/Verizon are using is the sun.
Now what we know, beyond any doubt (we have the freaking blueprints and technical specs), is that the government at an AT&T building in San Fran split all the traffic from the NOC onto its own switches.
They didn't gather one email or the IM of this person or that person. They didn't even ask AT&T for the information from this whole day or this one million Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (something unique to your specific computer/router/network hub -- your online DNA). Instead they just built their own secure room within AT&T's NOC, installed their own switches, and tapped into the traffic and grabbed everything! We also know this is being done in other data centers throughout the United States.
To use a pre-Internet example it is like a USPS employee opening every letter sent and photocopying them.
Here is exactly what they did (links directly to a PDF):
Optical fiber carrying the inter-ISP peering traffic associated with AT&T’s Common Backbone was "split," dividing the signal so that 50 percent went to each output fiber. One of the output fibers was diverted to the secure room; the other carried communications on to AT&T’s switching equipment. The secure room contained Narus traffic analyzers and logic servers; Narus states that such devices are capable of real-time data collection (recording data for consideration) and capture at 10G bits per second (bps). Certain traffic was selected and sent over a dedicated line to a "central location." The San Francisco office set-up was one of many throughout the country, including in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. According to Marcus’s affidavit, the diverted traffic "represented all, or substantially all, of AT&T’s peering traffic in the San Francisco Bay area,"14 and thus, "the designers of the ... configuration made no attempt, in terms of location or position of the fiber
split, to exclude data sources comprised primarily of domestic data."
Bush, the DOJ,and NSA would like all of us to think this is just too much information to do anything with so we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about it. Well that is utter crap and maybe the biggest lie they have told us (and they have told some whoppers). If you have a data networking switch that can handle sending 90,000 DVDs in well under a minute, don't think for a second you can't stack enough computers next to them to process this information in whatever manner they desire.
For example, here are the specs on the world's fast computer, developed by IBM and you got it, a federal government agency:
The No. 1 position was again claimed by the BlueGene/L System, a joint development of IBM and the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. Although BlueGene/L has occupied the No. 1 position since November 2004, the current system has been significantly expanded and now achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of 478.2 TFlop/s ("teraflops" or trillions of calculations per second), compared to 280.6 TFlop/s six months ago before its upgrade.
That would be more than 450 trillion with a capital T a second.
They didn't gather all this data for just a second, minute, hour, week, month or a year in time. They have been collecting it for years. The data builds upon itself. The more data they have the more useful it becomes, not the other way around.
And finally, there is another huge lie Bush and the DoJ like to tell. That is FISA was written years ago and it is outdated, therefore they don't have time to go in-front of a judge and present evidence.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just like your computer keeps your browsing history, sent emails, and a number of pages in your disk cache so does AT&T. I don't know the exact time (it would vary), but it is days or weeks, not seconds. And since every digital packet that comes through a switch is coming from one IP address to another, it would be so stupid simple to monitor one address. Ten. One thousand. Ten million backwards in time, in real-time, and moving forward.
Problem for the White House and DoJ, that would require they present evidence in the FISA court.
It is clear they don't want to do this, instead they want EVERYTHING. And of course we may never know why!