An odd-looking skyscraper at 33 Thompson Street in Manhattan is reportedly a hub for U.S. spying activity.
The windowless building, known by many as the “Long Lines Building” because of its external features, was constructed for AT&T in 1974 and has been inhabited by the telecommunications giant ever since, notes the Daily Mail.
However, as documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal, the building is also used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on phone calls, fax messages and internet data, reports The Intercept.
The NSA was created in 1952 during the administration of President Harry Truman. The organization’s secrecy led to its nickname “No Such Agency,” as The Saturday Evening Post explains.
The building, which was developed under the code-name "Project X," features 29 windowless floors with three basement levels, and was designed to withstand an atomic blast. The purpose of the bunker-type design was to safeguard the important telecommunications equipment housed within it.
Among the equipment is an international “gateway switch,” according to what an AT&T employee told The Intercept. The switch is reportedly a major route by which international calls and data enter the U.S. telecommunications system.
According to the Intercept, top-secret NSA documents indicate that the NSA has an operation code-named “Titanpointe” in the building that is used for the agency’s controversial surveillance program.
NSA documents link Titanpointe to the Skidrowe program, which uses satellite data to spy on emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, commented on these latest revelations:
This is yet more proof that our communications service providers have become, whether willingly or unwillingly, an arm of the surveillance state.
The NSA is presumably operating under authorities that enable it to target foreigners, but the fact that it is so deeply embedded in our domestic communications infrastructure should tip people off that the effects of this kind of surveillance cannot be neatly limited to non-Americans.