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Oh (Big) Brother!
Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 10 April 2008 13:27

Congress Pursues Secret FBI Wiretap Circuit
Tom Corelis (Blog) - April 10, 2008 9:19 AM

Dozens of secret connections gives FBI instant wiretaps to the nation's communications carriers

A quiet outrage has built up against the “Quantico Circuit,” a high-speed wiretap connection that allegedly links the FBI’s Quantico headquarters to a high-speed switching center belonging to Verizon Wireless.

Discovered in 2003 by security consultant Babak Pasdar while working for Verizon, the so-called Quantico Circuit is a 45 megabit DS-3 line that connects one of Verizon’s main switching offices to an undisclosed destination somewhere in Quantico, Virginia. In a brief to Congress filed by Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, Pasdar says the Quantico Circuit enjoyed a “unique” exemption from “all security measures and access control,” and that his supervisors refused to answer questions on the circuit’s nature:

“They repeatedly winked, smiled, asked his question back, and refused to answer or explain,” wrote Devine (DOC).

More recently, representatives John Dingell, Edward Markey, and Bart Stupak from the House Energy and Commerce Committee dispatched a series of “Dear Colleague” letters (PDF) in an effort to raise awareness of potential privacy concerns and gather additional information: the circuit’s details are especially important to FISA updates currently making their way through Congress, some of which could grant the government powerful new wiretap abilities.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the destination to be the FBI’s Quantico facility, which is the nerve center of the bureau’s electronic surveillance operations. Wired’s Threat Level reports Pasdar’s claims to be “nearly identical” to allegations in a 2006 lawsuit, which alleges Verizon Wireless of maintaining an “unprotected” transmission line at one of its main datacenters:

“Because the data center was a clearing house for all Verizon Wireless calls, the transmission line provided the Quantico recipient direct access to all content and all information concerning the origin and termination of telephone calls placed on the Verizon Wireless network as well as the actual content of calls.

“The transmission line was unprotected by any firewall and would have enabled the recipient on the Quantico end to have unfettered access to Verizon Wireless customer records, data and information. Any customer databases, records and information could be downloaded from this center.”  [Dailytech]  [Comments...]

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