On August 15, The New York Times and Pro Publica published a story in which the big US telecommunications company AT&T was identified as a key partner of the NSA.
Interesting details about this cooperation and the cable tapping were already in the 2008 book The Shadow Factory by James Bamford, but with the new story, also a number of clarifying documents from the Snowden-trove were disclosed.
Among them are some powerpoint presentations that contain the slides which had been shown on Brazilian televion two years ago. They were first discussed on this weblog in January 2014.
Here we will combine these new and old documents to provide a detailed picture of this important collection program, that was previously misunderstood on various occasions.
At NSA, the division Special Source Operations (SSO) is responsible for collecting data from backbone telephone and internet cables. For that, SSO also cooperates with private telecommunication providers under the following four programs, which are collectively referred to as Upstream Collection:
- BLARNEY (collection under FISA authority, since 1978)
- FAIRVIEW (cooperation with AT&T, since 1985)
- STORMBREW (cooperation with Verizon, since 2001)
- OAKSTAR (cooperation with 7 other telecoms, since 2004)*
Before the new revelations, it was often assumed that BLARNEY was the program for NSA's cooperation with AT&T. The Wall Street Journal reported this in August 2013, based upon former officials, saying that BLARNEY was established for capturing foreign communications at or near over a dozen key international fiber-optic cable landing points. This assumption was also followed by Glenn Greenwald in his book No Place to Hide from May 2014.
In a letter to Cryptome, James Atkinson suggests that BLARNEY was the covername for cooperation with AT&T since 1978, and that after the Bell break-up, BLARNEY stayed active for FISA collection, and the new covername FAIRVIEW was created for the "new" AT&T. One new slide however, shows that BLARNEY actually encompasses all (over 30) companies that are cooperating for FISA collection, including of course AT&T and Verizon.