clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

So downtown’s AT&T tower houses a (not so) top-secret ‘NSA spy hub’?

New, 27 comments

Big Brother is reportedly watching—sometimes from an office near Georgia State University

A street view photo of the AT&T tower
Somewhere inside this longstanding downtown building, spies! (Allegedly).
Google Maps

Could spies live among us in Atlanta, right in our downtown midst?

Given America’s massive amount of defense funding, one might think a handful of secret agents must be peppered about major cities, posted inconspicuously behind newspapers, or hosting quiet meetings in moonlit alleyways.

But a new report by The Intercept suggests a prominent downtown Atlanta building houses one of the National Security Agency’s seemingly less-than-secretive “spy hubs.”

Buried somewhere within the AT&T tower at 51 Peachtree Center Avenue, stationed near the Georgia State University campus and the older core of the city, is an NSA facility, according to unnamed sources who spoke with the outlet.

Other big cities have been hiding their own NSA spy sites, too, per the report. They include Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and unsurprisingly, Washington, D.C.

The common theme among the network of agency sites: AT&T.

These NSA “spy sites,” the publication reports, “mirror maps of AT&T’s networks.”

The mecca for Atlanta’s Sterling Archers—or James Bonds, depending on your fancy—is one of the nation’s eight discovered “peering hubs,” which sort through internet traffic as part of the agency’s (not quite) top-secret project codenamed “FAIRVIEW,” per The Intercept, a hub for “adversarial journalism.”

In Atlanta, the NSA hotspot is equipped with what’s called a “splitter”—a device used to make copies of internet data processed by AT&T’s servers. From there, the digital records are reportedly turned over to “Study Group 3,” one branch of the NSA’s nationwide—if not larger—mass surveillance program.

Atlanta’s NSA spy spot, the report indicates, is snuggled somewhere within the 429-foot downtown art deco structure that evolved from a 1920s-era building, once home to the city’s main telephone exchange.

Now, our local spy club is believed to be of “strategic importance,” according to The Intercept. It’s relatively close to Miami’s AT&T internet routing center, where “huge flows of data” travel through the states and South America, the publication reports.

Atlanta is apparently the best “non-New York or San Francisco” city in which to launch a tech startup, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the ATL had wooed some of the government’s top digital security job prospects.

And the location would be convenient for Georgia State grads itching to become secret agents. Jobs could be just a few blocks away, though it might be wise to keep hush-hush when applying.