AT&T whistleblower: I was forced to connect 'big brother machine'
A former technician at AT&T, who alleges that the telecom forwards virtually all of its internet traffic into a "secret room" to facilitate government spying, says the whole operation reminds him of something out of Orwell's 1984.
Appearing on MSNBC's Countdown program, whistleblower Mark Klein told Keith Olbermann that a copy of all internet traffic passing over AT&T lines was copied into a locked room at the company's San Francisco office -- to which only employees with National Security Agency clearance had access -- via a cable splitting device.
"My job was to connect circuits into the splitter device which was hard-wired to the secret room," said Klein. "And effectively, the splitter copied the entire data stream of those internet cables into the secret room -- and we're talking about phone conversations, email web browsing, everything that goes across the internet."
Asked by Olbermann how he knew what was being sent along those particular lines, Klein said it was all part of his former job:
"As a technician, I had the engineering wiring documents, which told me how the splitter was wired to the secret room," Klein continued. "And so I know that whatever went across those cables was copied and the entire data stream was copied..."
According to Klein, that information included internet activity about Americans.
"We're talking about domestic traffic as well as international traffic," Klein said. " And that's what got me upset to begin with."
Previous Bush administration claims that only international communications were being intercepted aren't accurate, Klein says.
"I know the physical equipment, and I know that statement is not true," he added. "It involves millions of communications, a lot of it domestic communications that they're copying wholesale, sweeping up into that secret room."
When Olbermann asked Klein if being involved in the process reminded him of a scene in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the former technician said he had another movie in mind.
"Actually, I'm a little older so my thought was George Orwell's 1984 and here I am forced to connect the big brother machine," he said. "And I felt I was in a funny position, but I needed my job, so I didn't want to make a fuss a the time. But after I retired, I thought about it some more." According to ABC News, Klein believes AT&T has similar operations in place in as many as 20 other sites.
He is in Washington to lobby Congress not to pass a proposed telecom immunity bill, which would provide legal immunity to companies who secretly participated in NSA warrantless eavesdropping programs. Some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies are currently facing an array of class-action lawsuits related to the matter.
The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on November 7, 2007.