The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke reveal an NSA spy hub in NYC that's hidden in plain sight, one that's called "Project X:"
It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.
But the building's primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States -- the world's largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.
Built between 1969 and 1974, the skyscraper's address is 33 Thomas Street:
An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil -- a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.
"33 Thomas Street," the piece continues, "has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE:"
It has long been known that AT&T has cooperated with the NSA on surveillance, but few details have emerged about the role of specific facilities in carrying out the top-secret programs. The Snowden documents provide new information about how NSA equipment has been integrated as part of AT&T's network in New York City, revealing in unprecedented detail the methods and technology the agency uses to vacuum up communications from the company's systems. [..]
The NSA's documents also reveal that one of TITANPOINTE's functions is to conduct surveillance as part of a program called SKIDROWE, which focuses on intercepting satellite communications. That is a particularly striking detail, because on the roof of 33 Thomas Street there are a number of satellite dishes. Federal Communications Commission records confirm that 33 Thomas Street is the only location in New York City where AT&T has an FCC license for satellite earth stations.
"Much of the surveillance carried out at TITANPOINTE," Gallagher and Moltke points out, "seems to involve monitoring calls and other communications as they are being sent across AT&T's international phone and data cables:"
But the site has other capabilities at its disposal. The NSA's documents indicate that it is also equipped with powerful satellite antenna -- likely the ones located on the roof of 33 Thomas Street -- which monitor information transmitted through the air. [...]
The harvested data is then made accessible through XKEYSCORE, a Google-like mass surveillance system that the NSA's employees use to search through huge quantities of information about people's emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.
Klein stated that the company had maintained a "secure room" in one of its San Francisco offices, which was fitted with communications monitoring equipment apparently used by the NSA to tap into phone and internet traffic. Klein's claims formed the basis of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers (Jewel v. NSA), which remains ongoing today.
Coincidentally, between 1981 and 1990, Klein also worked for AT&T at 33 Thomas Street. "I wasn't aware of any NSA presence when I was there, but I had a creepy feeling about the building, because I knew about AT&T's close collaboration with the Pentagon, going way back," he told The Intercept. When presented with the details linking 33 Thomas Street to NSA's TITANPOINTE, Klein added: "I'm not surprised. It's obviously a major installation. ... If you're interested in doing surveillance, it's a good place to do it."
A 10-minute film on "Project X" is here: