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'Team Telecom' gets access to secret data in IT companies

By Neasa MacErlean

09 July 2013 at 09:30 BST

A group of government lawyers in the US, called 'Team Telecom', is setting up a network of detailed agreements with fibre optics companies to ensure that the US can continue its global surveillance operations.

'Team Telecom' to keep fibre optics surveillance going for US

The first agreement was signed with telecoms company Global Crossing ten years ago and acted as a template for the US to ensure that the US authorities could still access secret data rapidly, even in cases involving non-US companies. It gave rapid access to Global Crossing's data - allowing government officials physical access within 30 minutes. Some of the data that officials could access was prohibited from being shared with directors of the company. The 'network security agreements' accepted by Global Crossing and many other organisations do not authorise surveillance directly, according to Washington Post sources, but they ensure a degree of orderliness which protects against foreign spying and enables US government agencies to get rapid access to data  being transmitted by Global Crossing and the other companies. 

'No real independence'

Team Telecom is part of a unit developed by the Federal Communications Commission, the government body which approves cable licenses. Sources say that this team of lawyers has delayed licenses for months for foreign companies while it developed deals that 'went beyond what's required by the laws governing electronic eavesdropping'. The Global Crossing network security agreement linked into a fibre-optic network that stretched to 27 countries in four different continents. 'Our telecommunications companies have no real independence in standing up to the requests of government or in revealing data,' said former White House official Susan Crawford, now professor of law at Yeshiva University, when interviewed by the Washington Post. 


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