The WikiLeaks Pager Archive Dump: Who's Been Intercepting Private Texts, and How Long Has It Been Going On?

Nov 25 2009 Published by under Science and Public Safety

WikiLeaks.org - a group that's dedicated to posting leaked material from governments and other major institutions - has obtained and is currently publishing an archive of over 500,000 text messages that were sent, intercepted, and archived on 11 September 2001. The messages begin several hours prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and span the time of the attack and the following hours.

As the WikiLeaks intercepts page notes, this material is undoubtedly going to be a fantastic resource for anyone who wants a better understanding of how people reacted as events unfolded. However, the mere existence of this archive raises enormous concerns. Where did it come from? Who compiled it, who stored it, and under what authority?

Given the scope and magnitude of the archive, it is virtually impossible to believe that any non-governmental group could be responsible. The texts were sent over multiple telecommunications carriers, and do not appear to be related to any single agency, governmental or otherwise. Many of the early messages appear to be automatic warnings from computer systems to their operators, and many of those appear to be related to the financial industry, and not a government agency.

It's also important to note that the archive begins prior to the attacks. This is not something that can be excused as a response to the attacks, or as a new tool needed in the new post-9/11 world. This -whatever exactly it might be - is very clearly a project that was ongoing prior to the official start of the "War on Terror".

Who compiled these texts? Who told them to, and under what authority? When did it start, and has it ever stopped?

Those questions need to be answered, and they need to be answered soon.

11 responses so far

  • Art says:

    Welcome to the world of Total Information Awareness (TIA), Thanks Poindexter. Of course the program, under that name, was de-funded before it supposedly went very far. Of course anyone paying attention understands that TIA, even if the accuracy is less than perfect and you can't always tell what was said in some cases, is just too sweet an idea to let go of. It is one of those ideas that was sure to be implemented, to the extent the technology allows, as soon as the concept hit the conference room table.
    Assuming the government, including the VP's 'planning office' didn't keep it going, a very unlikely prospect in my estimation, there are all sorts of businesses that would love to trade and capitalize on the low-down of every electronic communication and transaction. Just knowing who is talking to who is a big advantage.
    In a lot of ways it isn't even a new program, just what has become common information collection taken to the next level.

  • Oh, the (Bleep)ing "Truthers" are gonna have a field day with this.

  • Xanthippas says:

    Right now all of the coverage seems to be focused on the content of the messages themselves. But I imagine as people have time to think about it, they're going to start wondering more about how these messages were obtained. Or at least, so I hope.

  • Dave X says:

    Before cell-phone text messaging, pager info used to be modem-like signals broadcast on certain frequencies.
    There is some old info about frequencies and equipment on http://www.hackcanada.com/blackcrawl/cell/pager/p46-8.html. Obtaining pages for a specific company in a specific area would be easy and within the capabilities of a Ham with a computer.
    But what really looks interesting about the wikileak is the multiple companies involved. An amateur ham could listening to a couple frequencies, but to be nationwide it would be governmental. On the other hand, half a million pages per day with most of them automated equipment doesn't sound particularly nationwide.
    Perhaps some Wall Street brokerage was tracking NY pager info as a relatively cheap way of gathering up-to-the minute chatter?

  • GAC says:

    I originally got this story from Buzz Out Loud (http://www.cnet.com/8301-19709_1-10405266-10.html?tag=mncol;title) and they discussed a simple hardware hack supposedly floating around that will allow any pager to recieve all pager messages in the area. Pager texts are not encrypted, the only thing that prevents you from receiving other people's messages is a prefix code. (Note this is all from the podcast discussion, I have no confirmation.)
    If it is really that easy to intercept pager messages, then you wouldn't need to look at NSA or a government conspiracy, it could just be a hacker or several hackers in New York that happened to be monitoring at the time. Of course, the flipside is that the NSA is probably monitoring it all on a much larger scale anyway, given their more sophisticated equipment and knowledge.

  • 1414 says:

    @ Where did it come from? Who compiled it, who stored it, and under what authority?
    @and many of those appear to be related to the financial industry, and not a government agency
    ***
    EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
    REPORT
    on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098(INI))
    FINAL
    A5-0264/2001
    10.5. Industrial espionage by states
    10.5.1. Strategic industrial espionage by the intelligence services
    After the end of the Cold War, intelligence service capacity was released and it can now be used more than before in other areas. The United States readily admits that some of its intelligence service's activities also concern industry. This includes, for example, monitoring of the observance of economic sanctions, compliance with rules on the supply of weapons and dual-use goods, developments on commodities markets and events on the international financial markets. The rapporteur's findings are that the US services are not alone in their involvement in these spheres, nor is there any serious criticism of this.
    10.5.2. Intelligence services as agents of competitive intelligence
    Criticism is levelled when state intelligence services are misused to put firms within their territory at an advantage in international competition through espionage. A distinction has to be made here between two cases.
    10.5.2.1. High-tech states
    Highly-developed industrial states can indeed gain advantage from industrial espionage. By spying on the stage of development reached in a specific sector, it is possible to take foreign trade and subsidy measures either to make domestic industry more competitive or to save subsidies. Another focus of such activities may be efforts to obtain details of particularly valuable contracts (see Chapter 10, 10.6).

  • KSA crew says:

    You can go to the bank on the fact that the end is very nigh for 911 liars, stalkers, slanderers.
    As for those who say that it's not appropriate to release personal messages that were texted on 911.... People deserve the truth... What is not right [much less appropriate] is the continual lies and slander that has gone on for years.
    Karma can be a b!tch. Justice is coming and those who deserve their "just desserts" will be finally getting them.

  • Sean Harlow says:

    As #4 points out, pagers are 100% unencrypted and transmitted with ordinary 2FSK or 4FSK modulation on well known frequencies. Anyone with a receiver capable of tuning those frequencies (most scanners or ham radios) and a computer can decode every single page sent on those networks. All this took is two bored individuals (since there are supposedly messages from both D.C. and NYC), no government intercepts needed.

  • red pepper says:

    You can go to the bank on the fact that the end is very nigh for 911 liars, stalkers, slanderers.

  • Likewise, it should not matter how God created life, whether it was through a miraculous spoken word or through the natural forces of the universe that He created. The grandeur of God's works commands awe regardless of what processes He used.

  • kosmodisk says:

    You can go to the bank on the fact that the end is very nigh for 911 liars, stalkers, slanderers.