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Journal: T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless Not Direct NSA Partners
Foreign Ownership Ties Makes It Hard to Muzzle Them
by Karl Bode 09:35AM Friday Jun 14 2013
An anonymous source insists to the Wall Street Journal that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile do not "directly" help the NSA due to the potential issues raised by their foreign ownership ties. Presumably, such cooperation would provide T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom and Verizon Wireless co-owner Vodafone with too much data on the NSA's practices:
Legal, practical and political obstacles are all possible reasons why the two firms are excluded from the NSA program. But current and former U.S. officials say the likely reasons are tied to their overseas ownership. Government requests for data, through special court orders sanctioned by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are classified "top secret" and "noforn," spy-talk for "no foreign." That would prohibit some T-Mobile and Verizon owners from being aware of the programs.
The Journal kind of side steps the fact that a big reason is the fact that it would be very difficult to muzzle these overseas companies, who would likely be less blindly and patriotically obedient.

Still, the report notes that this doesn't really matter since the NSA is said to have access to "99% of U.S. phone traffic" due to partnerships with other companies like AT&T and Sprint and wiretaps scattered all over upstream locations and regional nodes. It's also worth noting this restriction likely doesn't apply to Verizon and their fixed-line FiOS, DSL and POTS services. Nor does it apply to Verizon's core data transit networks -- where plenty of Verizon Wireless traffic touches down anyway.

Nor does this preclude T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless's help in more above-board, traditional surveillance efforts. As such, the Journal's leak is interesting legally, but irrelevant in every other regard.

topics flat nest 


Participation is irrelevant

Because inter-carrier compensation is changing in the next 5 years, the old telco to telco cash exchange model is going away. The need to keep swapping calls on analog pstn connections is rapidly approaching its death.
Many customers are unaware, newer connections between phone providers are crossing the internet at one or more points. Even if the phone on either side is a traditional analog connection or wireless device, the tandem switching providers or inter exchange carriers in the middle between the mobile switching offices and end user telco are often converting the calls to IP, and then passing them between eachother over public IP trunking (the internet).

Guess who has passive optical splitters and communications intercept equipment on major fiber routes between internet exchanges? The NSA does not NEED carrier cooperation to get the content of every phone call. The collection of CDR's (metadata telcos use those call data records for billing, troubleshooting, etc) has sufficient information ABOUT the audio portion captured via another mechanism to corelate back in time should the need or desire arise. Way to find yet another way around those pesky due process procedures like specific warrants! I wish I were that creative, I could have been an evil lawyer for disney or something!

delusion ftl



What it does sound like though is that a t-mobile to t-mobile call may not be watched/recorded without court orders.

SexaT duorP
Saint Louis, MO

Re: T-Mobile

Unlikely. T-Mobile doesn't own/operate their own networks. Most T-Mobile traffic is passed through other networks - like Level3 - or over to the PSTN. Under both circumstances, you don't need T-Mobile's participation to listen in on T-Mobile customers. Simply get access to the upstream providers.
"What makes us omniscient? Have we a record of omniscience? ...If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning."
-United States Secretary of Defense (1961-1968) Robert S. McNamara

Fremont, OH

Re: T-Mobile

TMO may not own any dark fiber like ATT or VZ but they could operate on their own leased dark fiber. Something that TMO would not really disclose if they didn't need to.

Complete Your Transaction


The likely reason this was mentioned by the Journal

The most likely reason this was mentioned by the journal is because the business implications:

1. T-Mobile wants out and will happily be acquired by another provider.

2. Verizon and Vodafone merger or acquisition or whatever that has been in discussion for a while.

The unmentioned goal is that we bring these communications companies in house to simplify and control the information. To do this, the government needs to allow actions like AT&T buying T-Mobile, despite the anti competitive environment it creates. The cover story is that it creates value, which AT&T's own lawyers accidentally made public.

Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Tulsa, OK

Irony: When the Patriotic thing to do is avoid US business

Isn't that interesting.... to do the right thing for the US Citizen, you need to avoid using US owned businesses and instead use foreign corporations.

Isn't reality grand.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini