Obama on spying: “Nobody” is listening to your phone conversations

By | June 8, 2013

Obama on spying:

A 2007 Washington Post article (reposted here at The Seattle Times website) describes the experiences that a former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, had with the National Security Agency (emphasis mine):

In summer 2002, Klein was working in an office responsible for Internet equipment when an NSA representative arrived to interview a management-level technician for a special, secret job.The job entailed building a “secret room” in another AT&T office 10 blocks away, he said. By coincidence, in October 2003, Klein was transferred to that office. He asked a technician about the secret room on the sixth floor, and the technician told him it was connected to the Internet room a floor above. The technician handed him wiring diagrams.

“That was my ‘aha’ moment,” Klein said. “They’re sending the entire Internet to the secret room.”

The diagram showed splitters glass prisms that split signals from each network into two identical copies. One copy fed into the secret room. The other proceeded to its destination, he said.

“This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style,” he said. “The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T’s customers, but everybody’s.”

One of Klein’s documents listed links to 16 entities, including Global Crossing, a large provider of voice and data services in the United States and abroad; UUNet, a large Internet provider now owned by Verizon; Level 3 Communications, which provides local, long-distance and data transmission in the United States and overseas; and more familiar names, such as Sprint and Qwest. It also included data exchanges MAE-West and PAIX, or Palo Alto Internet Exchange, facilities where telecom carriers hand off Internet traffic to each other.

“I flipped out,” he said. “They’re copying the whole Internet. There’s no selection going on here. Maybe they select out later, but at the point of handoff to the government, they get everything.”

comments from the American Civil Liberties Union:

ACLU Washington Legislative Office Director Laura Murphy: "The secrecy surrounding the government's extraordinary surveillance powers has stymied our system of checks and balances. Congress must initiate an investigation to fully uncover the scope of these powers and their constraints, and it must enact reforms that protect Americans' right to privacy and that enable effective public oversight of our government. There is a time and a place for government secrecy, but true democracy demands that the governed be informed of the rules of play so as to hold elected officials to account."…


If a machine types out and stores everything you say, Obama can say that “nobody” is listening to your phone conversations. If they name the people or group that does the listening “Nobody,” Obama can also say that “Nobody” is listening to your phone conversations.

The fiber optic splitters mean they get everything, not just metadata. Voice, pictures, video, everything. They can “quite literally watch your ideas form as you type.”

12 thoughts on “Obama on spying: “Nobody” is listening to your phone conversations

    1. Xeno Post author

      Troll? Who? The employee from the NSA who told us the truth about our government violating American citizen privacy big time under the disguise of protecting us from terrorists? I don’t think that word means what you think it means. If it does, you don’t seem to value liberty or your privacy. That’s your choice, but the problem you don’t seem to see is that the people doing spying in the government are human. Even if they are of the absolute highest caliber, analysts make mistakes and can be fooled if someone tries to frame you. If you trust everyone in the NSA, how do you explain the fact that you just called one a toll? Your innocence or guilt does not matter a bit if our government becomes corrupt past a certain point. And it will, according to history. Oh no, not OUR government, I’m a good citizen! Can you prove that against the false secret evidence against you? We have a Constitution with checks and balances for a good reason. Anyway, I don’t think there are trolls employed by the NSA, but are you saying the whole thing is a hoax pulled on the Guardian by a fake NSA employee? If that was the case, wouldn’t Obama have just said that?

      1. oliverthered

        well the stuff the NSA has been upto has been known for years, for instance Wired has been reporting about it frequently since at least 2011 (actually well before that, but here’s just one example):


        (if you go through the related articles there loads of them, including on phone records, which compains have what policies on government getting data which companies actively fight it etc…)

        I don’t think there was anything factual that was said that hasn’t been well known for many years.

        But some of the stuff the employee briefly worked for the NSA said was overstated to being made up. For instance direct access to googles servers and that kind of stuff.

        1. Xeno Post author

          The spying goes way back, yes. Eschelon, etc. What is new is the widespread knowledge by everyone now that this REALLY exists and is not just paranoia. For the last 10 years if you try to tell the average person that the government is recording and automated filter searching all phone conversations and everything that happens on the Internet they would say that’s impossible and you are crazy.

          Now, instead of being angry at the government, AT&T, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Skype, etc., instead of demanding change and privacy and compliance with the Constitution and criminal prosecutions for illegal spying and instead of apologizing to people they previously called conspiracy nuts, they just shrug their slave shoulders and say they have nothing to hide, the government is protecting them against terrorists by watching hundreds of millions of non-terrorists… somehow.

          As far as overstating, I don’t think Snowden has said anything that we can prove false yet. How do you know for certain there isn’t direct hardware access to Google’s servers?

  1. Nathaniel

    I still don’t understand what the problem is? I don’t care if someone has access to whatever lame thing I talked or texted about on the phone. The only people who should be worried about this are terrorists. I don’t get it.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Headexplode. Ok, post your credit card numbers, please. We, who you have never met, promise not to use them unless you are a terrorist.

      1. Nathaniel

        Disappointing, I never thought you would be one to write ‘facepalm’. Who ever said anything about credit card numbers? I’m not texting that information to anyone. Maybe I use it every once in a great while over the phone, but no one is sitting there saying ‘score, we got another credit card number!’ All I’m saying is that my conversation is not going to flag anything, so therefore has no significance at all.

        Is your concern that someone will hack into the government center and then take our information and use it for something? If so, then what? Someone somehow gets your credit card number, then cancel your credit card and get the money back. If someone wanted to steal your identity they would find a way, regardless of if there is a government center that watches for terrorists or not. It feels like people who are concerned about this think that someone actually cares about what goes on in their little boring lives.. I don’t mean you, just in general. If I ever read or hear about a legitimate reason to be concerned about it, then I will rethink it.

        1. Xeno Post author

          According to “three former officials” as reported by the Wall Street Journal NSA is collecting your credit-card numbers and all transactions.


          I don’t think that protects you from terrorists.

          Instead, it tells the government everything they are not supposed to know: Who has money, who is giving money to which religious groups and political candidates, inventions, affairs, everything!

          The point I am failing to impress you with is the unacceptable potential for abuse of this system.

          This is supposed to be a damned Democratic republic and we did NOT vote for this! I’m fuming mad and everyone else should be.

          Wild hypothetical question: If for the last seven years the system was being used to find and kill witnesses who could prove the government arranged 9/11 as a pretext for war, would you still see no problem with it?

          “Government” is not a magical good person container. It can and sometimes does contain murderers, terrorists, thieves, double agents, you name it.

          There is an age old scam called a protection racquet where thugs manufacture a threat and then extract payment for protection.

          We must consider all possibilities about any secret government projects supposedly created to protect us.

        2. Xeno Post author

          You are right, sorry. I’ve modified the word “facepalm.” It was totally inappropriate. I’ve replaced it with “headexplode.”

  2. Nathaniel

    Just came on to post a reasonable reply, then see your sarcastic dig. 5 years reading your blog every day and I never got any impression that you were a jerk, I thought you were a respectable guy able to have a mature discussion about any topic. Do you also treat fans of your music like crap?

    Writing facepalm implies you think your opinion is correct, and that the other person is wrong. It was too bad you wrote it because this is a matter of opinion, not you are right in your view and any other view is wrong.

    BTW, there is potential for abuse of ANY system. If you are that paranoid you might as well live off the grid in an underground shelter.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Hi Nathaniel,

      I’m sorry if I insulted you. That was not my intent. If a long term reader doesn’t get the importance of this, then the facepalm/headexplode is me feeling like I have not helped anyone over the years to understand the need for checks and balances. How many proven examples of government malfeasance are required before people see that this concern is not unfounded? And I’m not saying the government is evil. There are mostly good people in the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. That’s my view. I’m only saying that we must have oversight due to possible abuse. This to me is a completely reasonable and essential thing to require of our government which is supposed to be of, by, and for the people.

      If trying my best to protect the ideals upon which my country stands makes me an unpopular jerk, then I’ll stand alone doing what my personal integrity says I should do for the best long term good.

      But don’t mistake my exasperation at a difference of opinion as disrespect. The only way to make progress is to share ideas and hear each other. I think I hear you saying that, for protection, we should all trust and give up privacy to people who claim to be able to protect us from things like the Boston bombing. I do wonder why PRISM didn’t detect and prevent that. I guess they planned the bombing without yahoo, microsoft, google, Skype, etc. The really interesting thing is that PRISM might be able to prove exactly where the bombers where. If the map data from their cell phones showed that they never went to the Boston marathon (fake video scenario), that would make a hell of a Wikileak.

      Another point: By now every criminal organization in the world has added the NSA database of all of our communications to their list of top prizes.

      I’ve had my credit card number somehow stolen (not the card, the number) and used several times already. I’m getting sick of it. How do I know that didn’t happen due to leaks in PRISM?

  3. Gabriel

    Why put so much focus on the “Facepalm”? Xeno has his viewpoints which I tend to agree with except when he gets all queasy when Spirituality is mentioned. I find it interesting how much Xeno tries to disprove that a man is a composite of Brain (switchboard) Mind (computer) Spirit (creator, creator of thoughts)

    Anyways, we all have different ways of looking at “reality”. It seems to me like people all have their own world, and then there is the world we share and live in. I am sure we can all agree the world we live in has vast amounts of problems. What are you doing to help others?

    I also have been reading this blog for a few years.


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