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Dunn, NSA's chief of biometrics and protective systems. "Only biometric
authentication bases an identification on an intrinsic part of a human
being. Tokens”such as smart cards, magnetic strip cards, physical keys,
and so forth”can be lost, stolen, duplicated, or left at home. Passwords
can be forgotten, shared, or observed."
In 1999, NSA installed a number of multi-biometric security stations
on a pilot basis. The stations incorporate fingerprint recognition, voice
verification, and facial image recognition technologies into a single
system. In face recognition, a computer is programmed with a "statistical
knowledge of human faces" so that it can break down and reconstruct
images of faces.
Once past the High Security Portal, some employees must enter still
another supersecure area in order to work. As its name implies, the
Vault Type Room (VTR) resembles a large, walk-in bank safe, with a
heavy, thick steel door and fat combination dial.


425
But even inside Crypto City, inside one of its buildings, inside a red-
seal room, and finally inside a Vault Type Room, one occasionally needs
to open, like a Chinese puzzle, another locked door. To accomplish this,
one must first go to a tall, steel, closetlike device, an Automated Key
Access Machine (AKAM). After one enters one's badge and PIN numbers,
the computer searches key access lists, determines eligibility, retrieves
the key, and dispenses it with a robotic arm. Each machine stores 406
keys on a carousel, has a response time of less than thirty seconds, and
provides complete tracking of key movements.
Although one might assume that a security-obsessed scientist
thought up the AKAM in a dark corner of NSA, it was actually designed
for use in auto dealerships. While out shopping for a new car, an NSA
security employee spotted the device and recognized its potential. The
agency then worked with the manufacturer, Key Systems, to modify the
equipment for use in Crypto City.
Finally, another passageway leads to the Headquarters Building. Like
OPS 1, it is primarily occupied by personnel from the Directorate of
Operations.


Inside the offices, some people scribble away on green chalkboards
while others talk in "teaming areas," informal meeting spaces designed to
increase the sharing of ideas. Most work in bland, shoulder-height
cubicles, tapping away at a UNIX system built by Sun Microsystems or at
a Dell workstation. Many employees have two separate computer
terminals on their desk and some, especially voice analysts, also have
reel-to-reel tape recorders to listen to voice intercepts. Two recorders are
occasionally required in order to listen to both sides of a conversation.
Every desk is equipped, as well, with two types of telephones: "black"
phones for unclassified conversations and "gray," secure phones known
as STU-IIIs (for Secure Telephone Unit 3; pronounced Stew-3). The STU-
III was developed under an NSA contract in the mid-1980s. Before that,
NSA used the far more cumbersome STU-I and STU-II systems, which
were developed in the 1970s. The principal drawback of these earlier
secure phones was the need to call a "Key Distribution Center" in order
to set up each call, which resulted in a delay of two to three minutes.
The STU-III can be used both as a secure phone for conversations
classified as high as Top Secret/Codeword, or as a POTS ("plain old
telephone system") for normal, unclassified calls. To "go secure," both the
caller and the person on the other end insert a thin black plastic "Crypto
Ignition Key" into their STU-III. Many employees attach the key to the
neck chain that holds their security badge. Once the key is inserted, a
small display screen on the phone tells the person on the other end what
security clearance”Secret, Top Secret, or Top Secret/Codeword”the


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key's holder has. The STU-III has reduced to about fifteen seconds the
time needed to go secure; it also has secure fax, data, and video
capability. Once the key is removed, the phone is again usable for
unclassified calls.
Gradually, the STU-III is being replaced by a new, more sophisticated
system known as the STE (for Secure Terminal Equipment). Made by L3
Corporation, the STE is digital as opposed to analog and can therefore
also be used to send and receive secure data. The "key" used is not thin
and plastic but similar to the small metal cards used in computers. In
addition to increasing the quality of the sound and making it nearly
identical to a normal phone, the new STE has the advantage of virtually
eliminating the wait time to "go secure." By the time the receiver is placed
to the ear, the system is encrypted. According to Michael J. Jacobs, head
of NSA's codemaking organization as deputy director for Information
Systems Security, the encryption within the STE is so powerful that,
given projected foreign codebreaking capabilities, it will remain fully
secure for at least fifty years.
Among the places within NSA an employee can call once his or her
Crypto Ignition Key is inserted is an automated, classified information
network. Need "SIGINT Operations and Intelligence Information"? Simply
dial 9-555-1212 on the secure phone and you are connected to NSA's
ACCESS menu, where you just press "1."
Crypto City's operators average 250,000 assisted calls per year”60
percent of which are on the "unclassified" phones, 40 percent on the
secure phones. A computer program known as Searchlight provides
directory assistance for secure calls.
Highly classified documents once could be whisked from one part of
the city to another over ninety-five miles of pneumatic tubes in less than
ninety seconds. To ensure security, the system contained over 10,000
sensors to monitor the progress of the documents. But repair costs
eventually became too great and the system was abandoned. Today the
city is interconnected by a network of fiber optic cables not shared by the
outside world. The cable contract was offered to the small start-up fiber
network company Qwest, said one person, "because it was the only
bidder that offered the agency its own fiber path that would not have to
be shared with commercial users."
When not attacking crypto systems, residents of the secret city can
switch their TV sets to Channel 50, the NSA Broadcast Network.
Programs are beamed from Crypto City's own state-of-the-art Television
Center, in the FANX II building. ("FANX" means "Friendship Annex";
Friendship was the old name for the nearby Baltimore-Washington
International Airport.) The facility is completely soundproof and has two
video-edit suites, a sound booth, an audio-sweetening room, a studio,



427
and three-D computer-graphics capability.
Among the programs produced at the Television Center and
transmitted throughout the city is Newsmagazine, which features a
variety of live presentations. NSAers may also tune their television sets to
the live call-in show Talk NSA. "If you enjoy Larry King Live, Imus in the
Morning, or any of the many other interactive talk shows, you might want
to give Talk NSA a try," gushed one enthusiastic NSAer. On March 25,
1998, Kenneth Minihan was the guest on the show's forty-fifth
broadcast. Seated "on location" in an NSA warehouse, he spent an hour
taking questions from viewers who dialed 968-TALK.
Lieutenant General Minihan also was the first director to conduct a
Worldwide Electronic Town Meeting for NSA employees around the world,
using an NSA computer chat room. "Ask short, straightforward
questions," the workforce was cautioned. More than 6,000 people across
the globe, many in secret listening posts, took part in the virtual event,
generating 36,711 lines of text.
In search of something a bit more exciting, an NSAer can switch
channels to the intelligence community's own encrypted and highly
secret version of CNN. As the Defense Intelligence Network (DIN) logo
fades from the screen, an anchor introduces "Global Update," a Top
Secret roundup of world events. Although the lead story might be the
same as the one on Ted Turner's twenty-four-hour news network, DIN
has unique advantages: up-to-the-second photos from spy satellites,
secret conversations from NSA intercepts, and the latest diplomatic
gossip from the DIA's worldwide corps of defense attach©s.
Another difference from CNN is that the classification (Secret, Top
Secret/Umbra, and so on) of the intelligence or the commentary appears
in the corner of the screen, sometimes changing as often as every twenty
seconds. While on occasion a bit slower than CNN to pick up a story, DIN
often soars ahead, as it did when viewers were able to watch reports of
the attempted coup in Venezuela "long before CNN made the world aware
of it," said one DIN official.
Tired of TV, an NSAer can boot up his or her computer and log on to
Crypto City's own, very secret intranet. Based on the ideas and
technologies that are currently wrapping the world in an ever-tightening
mesh of interactive electrons, NSA's "Intelink" has one key difference: it is
totally hidden from the outside world.
At the same time that NSA's money and personnel were being cut
back as a result of the post”Cold War intelligence drawdown, more and
more data were streaming into the agency's earth station atop a small
wooded hill on the northern edge of the city. The problem was similar
throughout the intelligence community. The solution was to go online,
using cyberspace to move, distribute, and access the mountains of


428
intelligence reports.
Connected through a system of highly secure and encrypted cable
networks, Intelink allows NSA's technospies and analysts to surf through
secret home pages and databases. Within seconds, they can download
everything from the latest intercepts on Chinese submarine activity off
the Paracel and Spratly Islands to satellite imagery and video footage of
Pakistani tank movements near Kashmir. "If Warren Christopher wants
to know about Korea," said Ross Stapleton-Gray, a former CIA official,
"he just goes over to the Korea page and he can see the DIA analysis, the
CIA analysis, the NSA intercept, and an FBI report on Korea."
Linking NSA with the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and
other members of the intelligence and defense community, the new
system is "a major breakthrough," according to a senior Pentagon
intelligence official. "Intelink," he said, "for the first time, in a user-
friendly environment, allows every element of the intelligence community
and every element of the Department of Defense to reach into every other
element." A CIA official added, "Essentially, to a great extent we've cloned
the technology from the Internet into our communications system."
Over Intelink, NSA now publishes documents containing hypertext
links that allow customers to instantly obtain details concerning the
original raw signals intelligence data on which the conclusions were
based, so that they can understand the basis of an analyst's views.
High praise for the system reaches all the way to the White House,
which in the past had to wait for the CIA's most secret reports to be
delivered by the agency's "pizza truck," as the courier van was called.
Intelink can now provide these documents almost instantly. Former Vice
President Al Gore has called the system "a brilliant use of cyberspace"
that is "bringing the intelligence community closer together than ever
before."
The idea had its origins in a dusty, little-known "back room" of the
U.S. intelligence community: the Intelligence Systems Secretariat (ISS),
set up in 1994. Key to the system was to make it completely separate
and secure from the publicly used Internet in order to prevent anyone
from hacking into it. Thus, rather than an Internet, it would be an
extranet, a private system connecting all of the supersecret internal
networks and databases of the spy community, with a thick firewall
separating it from the crowded and open Internet. Among those
databases would be NSA's own internal intranet, Webworld.
In the past, getting intelligence from the collector to the ultimate user
in the field in time to be helpful was the Achilles' heel of the system. One
NSA linguist, Fredrick T. Martin, assigned to a remote outpost in the
Middle East during the Cuban missile crisis, recalled the frustration.
"Collaboration with our counterparts elsewhere," he said, "and with NSA


429
Headquarters meant asking a question, forwarding it on a special
teletype circuit, and waiting until your shift the next day (if you were
lucky) for the reply. Although many improvements were made to this
basic approach over the next thirty years, the fundamental set of
dissemination and collaboration problems remained."
More recent complaints came from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf,
who warned that delays in receiving intelligence reports had a serious
impact on his direction of the Gulf War. Another example is the
shootdown of Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady over Bosnia in June 1995.
It was later discovered that anti-aircraft missile batteries had been
spotted earlier but the intelligence did not reach O'Grady in time. Over
Intelink, troops on the front line can now obtain information at the same
time that it is received within the White House.
With the click of a mouse, the Netscape browser opens up to Intelink
Central and the warning, "Anyone using this system expressly consents
to monitoring." Scrolling down, the user can choose from a long list of
hyperlinks to the classified home pages of about ninety intelligence
organizations. These range from the Arms Control Intelligence Staff to
the CIA's Office of Advanced Projects to DIA's Central MASINT
[measurement and signature intelligence] Office to the Intelligence
Community Librarians' Committee. For signals intelligence information,
there are links to such sites as NSA, the Regional Sigint Operations
Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and the National Sigint Committee.
Intelink has its own Yahoo'-style search tool called Wer'zit!? Users can
also use five commercially available search engines, such as Alta Vista.
In a major innovation for the intelligence community, Intelink even
offers secret, around-the-clock chat rooms with the program WebChat. "If
you have the need to consult in real time via keyboard chat with a peer
anywhere in the world," said James P. Peak, the Intelink director,
"WebChat is for you." Among the chat rooms are Analyst Rooms, where
issues affecting intelligence analysts are discussed. More general
discussions can be conducted in Office Rooms. And for chat about
specific areas of the world, such as the Middle East, a person can enter
Geographical Regional Rooms. Topical Rooms are for those who wish to
exchange or solicit information on specific topics. An example is the
International Organized Crime chat room.
Despite their sensitive jobs and high clearances, the elite participants
in WebChat have caused concern within the intelligence community with
"obscene and boorish behavior." This has led to close monitoring by
Intelink managers. The posted rules on Intelink include a prohibition on
the "use of fantasy role-playing 'personas' and postings describing
imaginary activities."
NSA serves as the home for Intelink, though the intranet is used by


430
other intelligence agencies. Its Intelink Service Management Center
operates a twenty-four-hour command post known as Intelink Central, a
spacious room with a wraparound console crowded with computer
monitors and telephones. Because Intelink serves a wide customer base,
it comprises four separate networks with different security
classifications. The first created was "Top Secret”SCI" ("sensitive
compartmented information"). More than 50,000 people with codeword
clearances at over 100 different locations have access to this network.
For those cleared only to the Secret level, there is "Intelink-S," which has
about 265,000 users at some 160 locations.
The most secret and restricted network is "Intelink-P," also known as
"Intelink-PolicyNet." Those authorized access are limited to the president
and vice president, the national security adviser, the directors of Central
Intelligence and NSA, and a small number of other officials. It operates
on a private, secure, high-bandwidth network and is used primarily to
distribute supersensitive reports not available on the other levels.
At the other end of the spectrum there is "Intelink-U," the newest
network, which is designed to provide exclusively unclassified and open-
source materials. It is said to be the single largest data repository in the
world.

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