What's inside the windowless AT&T/NSA spying hub in lower Manhattan?


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/16/whats-inside-the-windowless.html


grattacielo senza finestre
33 Thomas St, New York, NY 10007, USA

One of the google map entries lists it as a rock climbing gym


This building was close to my high school growing up. I had always assumed that it was merely the headquarters of the Illuminati where the one who runs the world sits in a room with no windows. Actually, it is far more sinister.


It’s where they store the escape hatch


The AWM cars parked outside couldn’t say ‘WE’RE INCONSPICUOUS, NOTHING TO SEE HERE’ any louder.


Now that is a prime example of brutalist architecture.


I remember walking past that place years ago and wondering what the hell it was.


It’s a good thing we gave the telecoms immunity and stopped the NSA from unconstitutional spying.


What’s inside? Nothing but gleaming, pitiless machinery, of course.


So it’s like my wife’s bedside endtable?


Hah, that was so on point I think you nicked me.


By the way, “windowless building designed to survive atomic attack” describes pretty much all Bell System-and-successors’ major switching facilities built since about 1960.

Here in LA, most of the major cold-war-era switching facilities are strategically positioned to be protected by local topography from an all-out nuke attack on the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, which was assumed to be a major target in the event of a ‘decapitation’ strike.

(Seal Beach was the Navy’s primary West Coast nuke depot back then.)

Many of them were designated Fallout Shelters back in the day, too, so of course they had large stashes of food, water, and supplies.

I lived near one in the San Fernando Valley for a while, and it still had its Fallout Shelter sign until at least the late '90s. And, yeah, it was a massive windowless block nestled up against the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, in the ‘blast shadow’ of any ground-level strikes on Seal Beach.

So, sinister though it may sound, “windowless building built to survive atomic strike” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with spying or other nefarious activities - it’s just SOP for major cold-war-era Bell Systems switching facilities.


Oh, for fuck’s sake. This is not a “AT&T/NSA spying hub.” It’s a major telephone exchange and data center. There’s no windows because as @Blaze_Curry helpfully mentioned, it’s all machinery and windows would just be superfluous (not to mention would make cooling even more expensive). There’s no mystery behind what this building is, and it’s purpose is pretty common knowledge among IT folks.

If there’s NSA activity going on here (and I certainly have no reason to believe there isn’t) it’s more a matter of convenience than any nefarious purpose of the building itself. This exact same story could be true of any number of windowless and anonymous datacenters or purpose built network exchanges throughout the US (thanks, @glenblank for mentioning this).

It’s worth noting this was one of the few buildings in lower Manhattan that was unaffected by the power outages in lower Manhattan after 9/11 despite just being a few blocks away from Ground Zero.

Where’s all the coverage about the Utah Data Center, which is an actual NSA spying hub?

ETA: Ooh, do I love this article note: “Satellite dishes on top of 33 Thomas Street. At TITANPOINTE, a program called SKIDROWE intercepts satellite communications” You know what else can “intercept satellite communications?” Any satellite dish. They are just radio waves. You don’t need any fancy MITM to capture them. A satellite dish on the roof of a tall building – especially a telecom one – is simply so ordinary that any mention of it seems like a major reach into conspiracy theory territory to me.


Not far from this AT&T building is a quite creepy Verizon building:


That’s in stark contrast to the actual Verizon headquarters (literally across the street from the WTC complex and was heavily damaged by WTC 7’s collapse), which is quite beautiful:

ETA I’m a NY architecture nerd. I can go on about this stuff for hours.


TITANPOINTE, built from 1969-1974, was designed to withstand an atomic
blast, and has enough food and supplies to sustain 1,500 people for two

Well, that will do me just fine, come the zombie apocalypse.


I think that you mean the Deplorables Apocalypse. In which case you are already chin deep in shit.


Unlike Zombies, the Deplorables do not crave brains; not even ones of their own.


Best building in New York?


I remember some architecture program where the presenter insisted that was the Seagram Building?