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We’re On Hold — Why Now?
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We’re On Hold

Today on All Things Considered they had a conversation with Carol Wilson, editor at-large for Telephony magazine.

Her explanation triggered two memories that are making me uneasy about what we really know about the NSA data collection program.

She reminded me that when you pick up your telephone you are connected to a control circuit or channel that is outside of the voice channel. That channel is where the accounting takes place: the numbers of both ends of the conversation are recorded, the caller id information is retrieved, and the timer starts.

If the phone being called is busy, or needs to be forwarded, or any of the other “housekeeping” operations takes place, it is on that circuit, not the main voice trunks. If you tap that circuit you will get all of the accounting information, but none of the actual conversation.

So now we know that it is the accounting circuits that are being tapped wholesale, and we have a grip on the situation – except, those circuits may not involve the telco.

By now you have probably noticed that if you have a problem with your cable or telephone service, the technician who shows up is not an employee of the company. They are generally guys who have a contract with the company. The telcos and cable companies have just about eliminated their repair people to save money. Well, the repair service isn’t all that gets split off.

When they started the utility deregulation in California a number of electric companies started reducing their expenses by outsourcing everything they did. I know for a fact that some of outsourced their billing, because I had a client who printed and mailed utility bills from computer tapes, and the tapes weren’t coming from the utility.

If the telcos have outsourced their billing, the government would go to the billing company, not the telco, for the information. In the same way, they would go to the company that publishes the phone book for the names and addresses that go with the numbers, which, again, may not be the telco.

Update: TPM Muckraker in their article, Did Telcos Hire “Scapegoat” To Give NSA Phone Records?, has the same suspicion.


1 Karen { 05.20.06 at 9:53 am }

I posted an interesting piece about the ThinThread data collection program – ya might want to check out too! (at my place…*wink* of course.)


2 Bryan { 05.20.06 at 1:46 pm }

I have a problem commenting on that side of the issue because I worked at the Agency and have no way of knowing what, if anything, has been de-classified. That’s a major frustration talking about this mess. I have to find things that are based on unclassified sources before I can rant about them.