The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities

THE SECRETS ARE hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

Continue Reading at “The Intercept

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Emergency Communications Preparedness

Attention Folks! This ARRL Letter gives emphasis to a number of vulnerabilities that most people share, the inavailability of an extreme emergency communication capability. While many are “wrapped around the axle” with cellular technology, they may be forgetting not only about coverage “dead spots” but, most especially, about how cellular became essentially unusable just after the 9/11 event for many reasons including the calling log-jam that exceeded traffic handling capabilities.

Additionally, complicating matters in a severe power-down scenario, cellular towers have a limited power backup capability:

“[T]he FCC imposes ‘specific mandates’ on wireless carriers including ‘backup electric power at most cell sites.’ Therefore, cell towers typically have battery backup arrangements that support operations for TWO TO FOUR HOURS, depending upon call traffic.” [emphasis added] (source: http://www.ehow.com/about_5397187_do-phones-work-power-outages.html)

One may want to strongly consider amateur radio as a key part of their communications planning. With today’s technology, one may acquire a good, hand-held radio for under $50. Also, the extensive networking of radio repeaters, their much more robust power backup capabilities, the ability to talk directly, radio to radio, the ability to link real-time GPS data to mobile mounted radios, the license exam fee of only $16.00, and a plethora of excellent free license study programs via the Internet all argue strongly in favor of adopting the “hobby.” Oh! And no monthly subscription costs either!

The story within this attached letter offers an excellent example of the extreme value of being prepared with the right communications abiity. http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter?issue=2013-11-07