Is Tribeca’s windowless AT&T building an NSA surveillance site?

Posted On Thu, November 17, 2016 By

Posted On Thu, November 17, 2016 By In Tribeca

Tribeca’s AT&T Long Lines Building is a prime example of Brutalist architecture, with its hulking slab form and imposing concrete facade. But what really draws curious gazes is its lack of windows. Pair this with the fact that the 550-foot telephone exchange tower was built to withstand a nuclear blast and keep 1,500 people safe from toxic radiation for two weeks, has three subterranean floors, and isn’t illuminated, and you’ve got quite the case to back up reports that the building is a secret NSA spy hub (h/t TRD). The Intercept analyzed data from former CIA employee Edward Snowden’s leaked documents that point to the fact that 33 Thomas Street is an NSA site code named TITANPOINTE, from which the agency has tapped the likes of the UN, World Bank, and at least 38 countries under its controversial BLARNEY surveillance program.

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Designed in 1974 by architect John Carl Warnecke, the building is one of AT&T’s largest telecommunication hubs and is often described as one of the most secure places in the country. The Intercept shares Warnecke’s wish to create a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”

Since the site processes hundreds of millions of domestic and international calls, it’s the perfect spot for the NSA to intercept communications. The analysis says the agency’s equipment is in a secure room, linked to AT&T’s routers, and can forward data to the agency’s Maryland headquarters. The documents also claim TITAPOINTE took part in NSA’s internet data collection initiative called SKIDROWE; as The Real Deal notes, “the Thomas Street building, which has several satellite dishes on its roof, is the only AT&T location with an FCC license for satellite earth stations.”

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In response to the investigation, an AT&T spokesperson told the Intercept that the company doesn’t allow “any government agency to connect directly to or otherwise control our network to obtain our customers’ information. Rather, we simply respond to government requests for information pursuant to court orders or other mandatory process and, in rare cases, on a legal and voluntary basis when a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence, like in a kidnapping situation,” adding that the NSA does not “have access to any secure room or space within our owned portion of the 33 Thomas Street building.” The NSA declined to comment.

[Via TRD and The Intercept]

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