Lottery Post Journal

Florida Rep. Wexler

This is priceless!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=3xOocmYuFH0&search=wexler%20colbert

 

Capitalism vs. Socialism

I started this as a comment that I was posting on goldrush's blog entry, but as it started getting bigger, I thought it would make more sense as an entry in my own blog.

Here's the blog entry that I am commenting about: https://www.lotterypost.com/blogcomments.asp?i=9486

...and my comments:

Sounds a bit like socialism to me.  "You earned eight hours of work today, comrade."

Socialism is like a force of never-ending erosion against capitalism, and it always starts with the concept that "things are unfair".

And that's where people fall into the trap of socialism.  It all sounds so good-intentioned, and it preys on people in the lower- and middle-class, who many times feel resentment at the people above them.

The problem with the whole argument is that it is based upon a faulty notion — that compensation at various levels is unfair, and we need to do something about it.

It's the last part of that sentence that makes the concept faulty ("and we need to do something about it").  If the sentence was just "compensation at various levels is unfair", then I would agree.

Taking a brief step back, capitalism is one of the key founding principles of our country and our democracy.  Capitalism is the main driver that made the United States the greatest, most powerful, and most responsible country the world has ever known.  Socialism, on the other hand, is responsible for creating some of the world's most notoriously evil countries the world has ever known.  (To clarify, when I say a country is evil, of course I am referring to that country's government and policies, not the mass of people who live there.)

So we know that capitalism works, and this great experiment called the United States of America is a shining success story. 

Getting back to main point, capitalism works so well because it is inherently unfair.  In order for the the process to work correctly, and for the end result of a prosperous citizenry to be achieved, things must be unfair.

Capitalism works because people at the bottom of the ladder, who are in an unfair situation, struggle mightily to get out of their unfair situation, and try to achieve parity with those above them, on the next rung up the ladder.

Once those people get to the next rung, they feel great about their achievement, which was earned through hard work.  Anything earned through hard work always feels better than something that was handed out.  That's an axiom of human nature.

Of course, once the ladder-climbing person gets to that next level, they start looking around and realize that once again there is unfairness.  The ladder is taller still, and it is unfair that people above them have more things, power, and money, than they do. 

So the cycle repeats, as the person goes through periods of envy, hard work, satisfaction, and back to envy.

Now, some people (like the person who wrote the opinion piece that goldrush linked to) want people to think that the concept of unfairness that drives capitalism is wrong, and should be eradicated.

That is such an incredibly myopic view of the world.  The better thing to do is to stand back and look at the fairness or unfairness of society as a whole under capitalism and socialism.

Under capitalism, any person — repeat, any person — can become the highest rung in the ladder.  Any citizen born here can become President.  Any citizen can be wealthy.  Every citizen can choose what line of work they want to do.  They can choose where they want to live, what kind of retirement planning they want to do, and what age they will retire at.  There is no limit to the number of choices that people in a capitalistic society can have, and countless opportunities for people to take advantage of.

Under socialism, where people are given what is "fair", there is only a small segment of the population that has the opportunity to excel.  95% of the population, which is given what they need (the word "sustained" comes to mind) will not have the opportunity to be the leader of their country, or the wealthiest, or determine when they will retire, or what they will have when they retire.  Those decisions are made for them by their "caretakers" — the government.  Freedom is generally missing from their lives.

And that leads me back to the main point — that by using unfairness as a motivator, and because every citizen has equal chances in life and equal ability to choose, capitalism achieves what socialism can never approach:  fairness.

States stepping up to tackle immigration laws

Finally! 

States stepping up to tackle immigration laws
By Jerry Seper
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
July 18, 2006

State lawmakers are offering more than 500 bills this year targeting state-mandated services, illegal aliens and the employers who hire them, responding to a growing chorus of public opinion nationwide calling for stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

Led by Georgia, where benefits for illegal aliens were cut and stiff sanctions placed on employers who hire illegals, and by Colorado, which banned nonemergency services to those in the country illegally, at least 39 states have either proposed or passed similar legislation.

Lawmakers have focused on constituency concerns regarding an estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens now in the country, resulting in rising costs for education and medical care, higher crime rates and exploitation by employers.

Georgia lawmakers passed and Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, signed legislation this year requiring adults seeking benefits to prove their U.S. citizenship, sanctioning employers who hire illegals and requiring companies with state contracts to check employees' legal status. The Georgia laws also require police to check the legal status of people they arrest.

The bill's author, state Sen. Chip Rogers, called it "the strongest single bill in America dealing with illegal immigration -- bar none." He told The Washington Times that it was intended to send a message that "while the federal government is not enforcing its immigration laws, the state of Georgia takes those laws seriously."

In Colorado, new legislation requires employers to show that new hires are in the country legally and makes it a felony for an illegal to vote. It also put two measures on the November ballot: one barring employers from receiving state tax assistance if they hire illegals and another allowing the state attorney general to sue the U.S. government to force compliance with immigration laws.

"If they've been taking benefits illegally, that's wrong," said Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican who worked with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, both Democrats, to pass the legislation.

With federal immigration reform stalled on Capitol Hill, several states are proposing their own laws. More than 500 bills have been introduced this year covering a variety of topics, including employment, access to public benefits and voting rights, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The conference said 57 bills were passed this year, while others were vetoed and several more are awaiting gubernatorial action.

Other bills were passed in Arizona and Illinois, where U.S. citizenship or legal immigrant status is required to receive health benefits. Kansas will only provide unemployment benefits to citizens and those with legal immigration status, Wyoming bars noncitizens and nonlegal permanent residents from state scholarships, and New Hampshire requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.

In Louisiana, a new law allows any state agency to investigate a contractor's hiring policies if the employment of illegal aliens is suspected and says prosecutors can issue an order to fire the illegals and fine those employers who do not comply.

Other bills were passed in Pennsylvania, which prohibits illegal aliens on projects financed by grants or loans from the state; Tennessee, which bars companies from state contracts for a year after they hired illegal aliens; Missouri, which prohibits learner's permits, driver's licenses or renewal licenses to people illegally in the country; and Virginia, where students with temporary or student visa status are ineligible for in-state tuition.

Several bills also were vetoed, including in Arizona, where lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature sought to criminalize illegal entry and allow trespassers to be prosecuted. They were vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.

Federal law requires states to provide some services to illegal aliens, including education and emergency medical care, but not other services, including continued health care and unemployment benefits.

This makes me laugh

"Stupid is as stupid does."

The word "stupid" pretty much sums up the owners of the New York Times.  Rather than recognizing that people hate their biased news coverage, and hiring new editors and reporters who aren't biased, the stubborn jerks are going to run the paper into the ground.

To any liberal reading this who thinks making the paper unbiased would lessen their "journalistic integrity", think of it this way:  the NYT would run unsavory pictures and stories in order to sell papers, but they won't simply report the news fairly, which would sell more papers.

Dummies.

NYT to cut paper size and close plant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Times Co. plans to narrow the size of its flagship newspaper and close a printing plant, resulting in the loss of 250 jobs, the company said in a story posted on its Web site late on Monday.

The changes, set to take place in April 2008, include the closure of a printing plant in Edison, New Jersey. The company will sublet the plant and consolidate its regional printing facilities at a plant in Queens, the paper said.

The newspaper will be narrower by 1 1/2 inches. The redesign will result in the loss of 250 production jobs, the company said.

The New York Times said it expected the changes to result in savings of $42 million.

The narrower format, offset by some additional pages, will reduce the space the paper has for news by 5 percent, Executive Editor Bill Keller said in the article.

The Times will join a list of several other papers from The Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times that have reduced their size as they cut newsprint and other production costs and try to stem a loss of readers and advertising to the Internet and other media.

Separately, Chief Financial Officer Leonard Forman will retire in 2007 after the company names a successor, another article posted on the Times Web site said.

Forman was president of The New York Times Co. Magazine Group from 1998 until it was sold in 2001, the biography on the company's Web site says. He was senior vice president for corporate development, new ventures and electronic businesses from 1996 to 1998.

He also worked for the Times Co. as director of corporate planning and chief economist from 1974 to 1986.

Finally, one state gets tough with illegal aliens

Colo. OKs Toughest U.S. Immigration Bills

By STEVEN K. PAULSON and JON SARCHE
Associated Press Writers

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado lawmakers ended a five-day special session on illegal immigration with a resounding approval of several bills that Democrats call the toughest in the nation and Republicans say don't go far enough.

The legislation sent late Monday to Republican Gov. Bill Owens would force a million people receiving state or federal aid in Colorado to verify their citizenship.

It would deny most non-emergency state benefits to illegal immigrants 18 years old and older - forcing people to prove legal residency when applying for benefits or renewing their eligibility. The state Senate passed it 22-13 and the House voted 48-15 in favor. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.

"At the end of the day, everybody who serves in this building as senators or representatives knows we're making Colorado history," said the bill's sponsor, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald. "We want to be able to look in the mirror and say we did legislation that is tough, enforceable and humane."

Republicans said the legislation still left glaring loopholes, including allowing benefits for minors and denying voters the chance to have a direct say on the issue.

The bill would apply to Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, energy assistance programs and aging and adult services. Owens has said an estimated 50,000 illegal immigrants could be thrown out of those programs.

"It simply puts teeth into existing federal regulations," Owens said.

Sen. Dan Grossman, one of four Democrats to vote against the measure, said: "I don't think the poor people of the state of Colorado or businesses of the state of Colorado should have to pay because we want to play politics with immigration."

Congress has been debating immigration reform for months, sparking demonstrations this spring involving millions of illegal immigrants and their supporters in several cities. With no major federal changes yet, however, some local governments have been taking matters into their own hands.

Last month, the City Council of Hazleton, Pa., tentatively approved a measure that would revoke the business licenses of companies that employ illegal immigrants; impose $1,000 fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants; and make English the city's official language.

"Illegal immigrants are destroying the city," Hazleton's Republican Mayor Lou Barletta said then. "I don't want them here, period."

Two Florida communities, Palm Bay and Avon Park, are considering similar immigration measures.

Idaho's Canyon County took a different tack - it filed a racketeering lawsuit against agricultural companies accused of hiring illegal immigrants. A federal judge threw the case out, but county commissioners voted to appeal.

 

Aren't convinced yet? More Internet wiretapping on the way...

I don't care who it is — Democrat, Republican, Independant — anyone who supports the kind of wide-scale Internet wiretapping outlined below (such as Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican) should be tossed out of office immediately by the voters in their state.

Can you imagine what it will feel like when you go on the Internet, knowing that every click you make, and every page you view, is being examined by law enforcement officials?

This is not a case where you can site back and say, "I have nothing to hide, so what does it matter?"

Does anyone want law enforcement to have the ability to enter anyone's home without a warrant?  Well, that's exactly what they are doing here.  Under the law being discussed, and with everything migrating to the Internet, law enforcement can basically penetrate anyone's home and watch what they do.

Is this what we really want the USA to become?  A police state, where people are guilty until proven innocent?

This legislation is a perversion of the worst kind.  Anyone who would sponsor this kind of travesty does not deserve to represent anyone in congress.

_______

FBI plans new Net-tapping push

New legislation, seen by CNET News.com, forces Net providers, networking-gear makers to build in Big Brother.

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: July 7, 2006, 6:47 PM PDT

The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET News.com has learned.

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

The draft bill would place the FBI's Net-surveillance push on solid legal footing. At the moment, it's ensnared in a legal challenge from universities and some technology companies that claim the Federal Communications Commission's broadband surveillance directives exceed what Congress has authorized.

The FBI claims that expanding the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is necessary to thwart criminals and terrorists who have turned to technologies like voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

"The complexity and variety of communications technologies have dramatically increased in recent years, and the lawful intercept capabilities of the federal, state and local law enforcement community have been under continual stress, and in many cases have decreased or become impossible," according to a summary accompanying the draft bill.

Complicating the political outlook for the legislation is an ongoing debate over allegedly illegal surveillance by the National Security Administration — punctuated by several lawsuits challenging it on constitutional grounds and an unrelated proposal to force Internet service providers to record what Americans are doing online. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of last Friday's meeting, said the FBI viewed its CALEA expansion as a top congressional priority for 2007.

Breaking the legislation down

The 27-page proposed CALEA amendments seen by CNET News.com would:

  • Require any manufacturer of "routing" and "addressing" hardware to offer upgrades or other "modifications" that are needed to support Internet wiretapping. Current law does require that of telephone switch manufacturers—but not makers of routers and network address translation hardware like Cisco Systems and 2Wire.
  • Authorize the expansion of wiretapping requirements to "commercial" Internet services including instant messaging if the FCC deems it to be in the "public interest." That would likely sweep in services such as in-game chats offered by Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system as well.
  • Force Internet service providers to sift through their customers' communications to identify, for instance, only VoIP calls. (The language requires companies to adhere to "processing or filtering methods or procedures applied by a law enforcement agency.") That means police could simply ask broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast or Verizon for wiretap info — instead of having to figure out what VoIP service was being used.
  • Eliminate the current legal requirement saying the Justice Department must publish a public "notice of the actual number of communications interceptions" every year. That notice currently also must disclose the "maximum capacity" required to accommodate all of the legally authorized taps that government agencies will "conduct and use simultaneously."

Jim Harper, a policy analyst at the free-market Cato Institute and member of a Homeland Security advisory board, said the proposal would "have a negative impact on Internet users' privacy."

"People expect their information to be private unless the government meets certain legal standards," Harper said. "Right now the Department of Justice is pushing the wrong way on all this."

Neither the FBI nor DeWine's office responded to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

DeWine has relatively low approval ratings — 47 percent, according to SurveyUSA.com — and is enmeshed in a fierce battle with a Democratic challenger to retain his Senate seat in the November elections. DeWine is a member of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing electronic privacy and antiterrorism enforcement and is a former prosecutor in Ohio.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., decided 2-1 last month to uphold the FCC's extension of CALEA to broadband providers, and it's not clear what will happen next with the lawsuit. Judge Harry Edwards wrote in his dissent that the majority's logic gave the FCC "unlimited authority to regulate every telecommunications service that might conceivably be used to assist law enforcement."

The organizations behind the lawsuit say Congress never intended CALEA to force broadband providers — and networks at corporations and universities — to build in central surveillance hubs for the police. The list of organizations includes Sun Microsystems, Pulver.com, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of American Universities and the American Library Association.

If the FBI's legislation becomes law, it would derail the lawsuit because there would no longer be any question that Congress intended CALEA to apply to the Internet.

Did you actually think your web surfing was not being watched?

I am about to burst the bubble of anyone who thinks they are surfing the internet securely.

Computers are very powerful machines, especially when you have a bunch of them that are programmed to do nothing except watch all of the Internet traffic flowing around in the ole' USA, and pick out data streams that they're looking for.

If someone in high places wants the low-down on what you're doing on the Internet, they can do it.

And it's a lot easier than you think.

Read on......

 

Is the NSA spying on U.S. Internet traffic?

by Kim Zetter
June 25, 2006
Salon.com - 2006-06-22

Two former AT&T employees say the telecom giant has maintained a secret, highly secure room in St. Louis since 2002. Intelligence experts say it bears the earmarks of a National Security Agency operation.

In a pivotal network operations center in metropolitan St. Louis, AT&T has maintained a secret, highly secured room since 2002 where government work is being conducted, according to two former AT&T workers once employed at the center.

In interviews with Salon, the former AT&T workers said that only government officials or AT&T employees with top-secret security clearance are admitted to the room, located inside AT&T's facility in Bridgeton. The room's tight security includes a biometric "mantrap" or highly sophisticated double door, secured with retinal and fingerprint scanners. The former workers say company supervisors told them that employees working inside the room were "monitoring network traffic" and that the room was being used by "a government agency."

The details provided by the two former workers about the Bridgeton room bear the distinctive earmarks of an operation run by the National Security Agency, according to two intelligence experts with extensive knowledge of the NSA and its operations. In addition to the room's high-tech security, those intelligence experts told Salon, the exhaustive vetting process AT&T workers were put through before being granted top-secret security clearance points to the NSA, an agency known as much for its intense secrecy as its technological sophistication.

"It was very hush-hush," said one of the former AT&T workers. "We were told there was going to be some government personnel working in that room. We were told, 'Do not try to speak to them. Do not hamper their work. Do not impede anything that they're doing.'"

The importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the "common backbone" for all of AT&T's Internet operations. According to one of the former workers, Bridgeton serves as the technical command center from which the company manages all the routers and circuits carrying the company's domestic and international Internet traffic. Therefore, Bridgeton could be instrumental for conducting surveillance or collecting data.

If the NSA is using the secret room, it would appear to bolster recent allegations that the agency has been conducting broad and possibly illegal domestic surveillance and data collection operations authorized by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. AT&T's Bridgeton location would give the NSA potential access to an enormous amount of Internet data -- currently, the telecom giant controls approximately one-third of all bandwidth carrying Internet traffic to homes and businesses across the United States.

The nature of the government operation using the Bridgeton room remains unknown, and could be legal. Aside from surveillance or data collection, the room could conceivably house a federal law enforcement operation, a classified research project, or some other unknown government operation.

The former workers, both of whom were approached by and spoke separately to Salon, asked to remain anonymous because they still work in the telecommunications industry. They both left the company in good standing. Neither worked inside the secured room or has access to classified information. One worked in AT&T's broadband division until 2003. The other asked to be identified only as a network technician, and worked at Bridgeton for about three years.

The disclosure of the room in Bridgeton follows assertions made earlier this year by a former AT&T worker in California, Mark Klein, who revealed that the company had installed a secret room in a San Francisco facility and reconfigured its circuits, allegedly to help collect data for use by the government. In detailed documents he provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Klein also alleged there were other secret rooms at AT&T facilities in other U.S. cities.

NSA expert Matthew Aid, who has spent the last decade researching a forthcoming three-volume history of the agency, said of the Bridgeton room: "I'm not a betting man, but if I had to plunk $100 down, I'd say it's safe that it's NSA." Aid told Salon he believes the secret room is likely part of "what is obviously a much larger operation, or series of interrelated operations" combining foreign intelligence gathering with domestic eavesdropping and data collection.

"You're talking about a backbone for computer communications, and that's NSA," Russ Tice, a former high-level NSA intelligence officer, told Salon. Tice, a 20-year veteran of multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, worked for the NSA until spring 2005. "Whatever is happening there with the security you're talking about is a whole lot more closely held than what's going on with the Klein case" in San Francisco, he said. (The San Francisco room is secured only by a special combination lock, according to the Klein documents.)

Tice added that for an operation requiring access to routers and gateways, "the obvious place to do it is right at the source."

In a statement provided to Salon, NSA spokesman Don Weber said: "Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues as it would give those wishing to do harm to the United States insight that could potentially place Americans in danger; therefore, we have no information to provide. However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law."

Since last December, news reports have asserted that the NSA has conducted warrantless spying on the phone and e-mail communications of thousands of people inside the U.S., and has been secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans, using data provided by major telecommunications companies, including AT&T. Such operations would represent a fundamental shift in the NSA's secretive mission, which over the last three decades is widely understood to have focused exclusively on collecting signals intelligence from abroad.

The reported operations have sparked fierce protest by lawmakers and civil liberties advocates, and have raised fundamental questions about the legality of Bush administration policies, including their consequences for the privacy rights of Americans. The Bush administration has acknowledged the use of domestic surveillance operations since Sept. 11, 2001, but maintains they are conducted within the legal authority of the presidency. Several cases challenging the legality of the alleged spying operations are now pending in federal court, including suits against the federal government, and AT&T, among other telecom companies.

In a statement provided to Salon, AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said: "If and when AT&T is asked by government agencies for help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions. Beyond that, we can't comment on matters of national security."

According to the two former AT&T workers and the Klein documents, the room in the pivotal Bridgeton facility was set up several months before the room in San Francisco. According to the Klein documents, the work order for the San Francisco room came from Bridgeton, suggesting that Bridgeton has a more integral role in operations using the secured rooms.

The company's Bridgeton network operations center, where approximately 100 people work, is located inside a one-story brick building with a small two-story addition connected to it. The building shares a parking lot with a commercial business and is near an interstate highway.

According to the two former workers, the secret room is an internal structure measuring roughly 20 feet by 40 feet, and was previously used by employees of the company's WorldNet division. In spring 2002, they said, the company moved WorldNet employees to a different part of the building and sealed up the room, plastering over the window openings and installing steel double doors with no handles for moving equipment in and out of the room. The company then installed the high-tech mantrap, which has opaque Plexiglas-like doors that prevent anyone outside the room from seeing clearly into the mantrap chamber, or the room beyond it. Both former workers say the mantrap drew attention from employees for being so high-tech.

Telecom companies commonly use mantraps to secure data storage facilities, but they are typically less sophisticated, requiring only a swipe card to pass through. The high-tech mantrap in Bridgeton seems unusual because it is located in an otherwise low-key, small office building. Tice said it indicates "something going on that's very important, because you're talking about an awful lot of money" to pay for such security measures.

The vetting process for AT&T workers granted access to the room also points to the NSA, according to Tice and Aid.

The former network technician said he knows at least three AT&T employees who have been working in the room since 2002. "It took them six months to get the top-security clearance for the guys," the network technician said. "Although they work for AT&T, they're actually doing a job for the government." He said that each of them underwent extensive background checks before starting their jobs in the room. The vetting process included multiple polygraph tests, employment history reviews, and interviews with neighbors and school instructors, going as far back as elementary school.

Aid said that type of vetting is precisely the kind NSA personnel who receive top-secret SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearance go through. "Everybody who works at NSA has an SCI clearance," said Aid.

It's possible the Bridgeton room is being used for a federal law enforcement operation. According to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994, telecom companies are required to assist law enforcement officials who have legal authorization to conduct electronic surveillance, either in pursuit of criminal suspects or for the protection of national security. The companies must design or modify their systems to make such surveillance possible, essentially by making them wiretap-ready.

The FBI is the primary federal agency that tracks and apprehends terrorist suspects within the U.S. Yet, there are several indications that the Bridgeton room does not involve the FBI.

"The FBI, which is probably the least technical agency in the U.S. government, doesn't use mantraps," Aid said. "But virtually every area of the NSA's buildings that contain sensitive operations require you to go through a mantrap with retinal and fingerprint scanners. All of the sensitive offices in NSA buildings have them." The description of the opaque Plexiglas-like doors in Bridgeton, Aid said, indicates that the doors are likely infused with Kevlar for bulletproofing -- another signature measure that he said is used to secure NSA facilities: "You could be inside and you can't kick your way out. You can't shoot your way out. Even if you put plastique explosives, all you could do is blow a very small hole in that opaque glass."

Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security program, said it is unlikely that the FBI would set up an ongoing technical operation -- in this case, for several years running -- inside a room of a telecommunications company. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed by Congress in 1978, requires law enforcement officials to obtain warrants from a secret federal court for domestic surveillance operations involving the protection of national security. If the FBI (or another federal agency) wanted data, it would more likely be targeting a specific individual or set of individuals suspected of engaging in criminal or terrorist activities. The agency would obtain a warrant and then call AT&T, or show up in person with the warrant and ask for the wiretap to be engaged. According to Jaffer, the FBI, NSA or any other federal agency could also legally tap into communications data under federal guidelines using technical means that would not require technical assistance of a telecom company.

In an e-mail statement to Salon, FBI spokesperson Paul Bresson said: "The FBI does not confirm whether or not we are involved in an alleged ongoing operational activity. In all cases, FBI operations are conducted in strict accordance with established Department of Justice guidelines, FBI policy, and the law."

Rather than specifically targeted surveillance, it is also possible that the Bridgeton room is being used for a classified government project, such as data mining, with which the Pentagon has experimented in the past. Data mining uses automated methods to search through large volumes of data, looking for patterns that might help identify terrorist suspects, for example. According to Tice, private sector employees who work on classified government projects for the NSA are required to undergo the same kind of top-secret security clearance that AT&T workers in the Bridgeton room underwent.

According to the former network technician, all three AT&T employees he knows who work inside the room have network technician and administration backgrounds -- not research backgrounds -- suggesting that those workers are only conducting maintenance or technical operations inside the room.

Furthermore, Tice said it is much more likely that any classified project using data collected via a corporate facility would take place in separate facilities: "The information that you garner from something like a room siphoning information and filtering it would be sent to some place where you'd have people thinking about what to do with that data," he said.

Dave Farber, a respected computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission, also said it is likely that data collected in a facility like the Bridgeton center would be used elsewhere, once the facility is set up to divert the data. "If I own the routers, I can put code in there to have them monitor for certain data. That's not a particularly difficult job," said Farber, who is considered one of the pioneers of Internet architecture. Farber said that "packets" of data can essentially be copied and then sent to some other location for use. "Most of the problems would have to do with keeping your staff from knowing too much about it."

According to the former network technician, workers at Bridgeton, at the direction of government officials, could conceivably collect data using any AT&T router around the country, which he says number between 1,500 and 2,000. To do so, the company would need to install a wiretap-like device at select locations for "sniffing" the desired data. That could explain the purpose of the San Francisco room divulged by Klein, as well as the secret rooms he alleged existed at AT&T facilities in other U.S. cities.

"The network sniffer with the right software can capture anything," the former network technician said. "You can get people's e-mail, VoIP phone calls, [calls made over the Internet] -- even passwords and credit card transactions -- as long as you have the right software to decrypt that."

In theory, surveillance involving Internet communications can be executed legally under federal law. "But with most of these things," Farber said, "the problem is that it just takes one small step to make it illegal."