One of the key players during the Snowden affair was Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He is responsible for coordinating all 16 American intelligence agencies, a role which is reflected by the number and the types of telephone equipment in his office.
Clapper has six phones, more than for example the director of the NSA, or the Defense Secretary. Here we will take a close look at these telecommunication devices used by the US Director of National Intelligence.
The office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created in 2004, after the 9/11 Commission Report recommended a stronger and separate leadership for the US intelligence community. Before, it was the director of the CIA who acted as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in order to coordinate the various intelligence agencies.
Australian foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd (right) meeting DNI James Clapper (left)
(Photo: Australian Foreign Affairs Department - Click to enlarge)
The telecommunications equipment used by DNI James Clapper can be seen in a picture from September 17, 2010, which shows his office in the headquarters building of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) at the Liberty Crossing compound near Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, while he was visited by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd.
When we take the high resolution version of the picture above, we can see that the displays and buttons of all the phones behind the DNI's desk are blurred by a censor. Apparently there's some rule for that, because from this distance it would be impossible to read anything.
The first phone on the left side is an Integrated Services Telephone version 2 (IST-2), which was designed by Raytheon and subsequently manufactured by Telecore, a small company that took over the production of these devices.
The IST is a so called "red phone", which means that it's connected to the Defense Red Switch Network (DRSN). This is the main secure telephone network for military command and control communications and connects all mayor US command centers and many other military facilities.
Like previous red phones made by Electrospace Systems Inc. (ESI), the IST-2 allows to make both secure and non-secure calls through this one single device. The phone itself has no encryption capability: any secure calls are encrypted in bulk before leaving the secure building, enclave or compound.
As part of a military telephone network, the IST-2 also has the distinctive 4 red buttons which are used to select the four levels of a system called Multilevel Precedence and Preemption (MLPP). This allows to make phone calls that get precedence over ones with a lower priority.
Next, there are three Cisco 7975 unified IP phones, which belong to the most widely used high-end office phones. These phones have no encryption capability, but they can easily be used as part of dedicated and secure Voice-over-IP networks.
The first Cisco phone, next to the IST-2, seems to have a bright green label, indicating that it has to be used for unclassified phone calls. Probably this phone is part of the internal non-secure telephone network of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
The second Cisco phone, right of the computer screen, has no recognizable label. It can be part of any secure or non-secure telephone network which DNI Clapper needs to have access to. One option could be the National Secure Telephone System (NSTS), which is used by the signals intelligence community (i.e. NSA).
The third Cisco phone has a distinctive bright yellow faceplate instead of the standard silver one. This indicates that it's part of the highly secure Executive Voice over Secure IP-network, which connects the President with senior cabinet members and some other high-level government officials.
This top-level telephone network was set up in 2007-2008. Before, the President was connected to the general military DRSN, but during the attacks of 9/11, this network appeared to be not reliable enough.
It's this bright yellow Cisco phone that shows that the Director of National Intelligence has direct access to the President. As we have seen earlier, even the director of NSA doesn't have this kind of telephone, and therefore lacks a direct line to the President.
The last type of telephone we see in Clapper's office are two big black phones called Secure Terminal Equipment (STE). These are made by the American defense contractor L3 Communications and are highly secure devices capable of encrypting calls up to the level of Top Secret/SCI.
STE phones can be used to make secure calls to anyone with a similar or compatible device and there are an estimated 400.000 STE users. STE is the successor of the almost legendary STU-III secure phone system from the late 1980s.
These STE phones can be used for secure communications with everyone working for the US government, the military, its contractors, and also foreign partners who can not be reached through a more select secure telephone network, like the DRSN or the NSTS.
Besides the six telephones, DNI Clapper also has two videoteleconferencing (VTC) screens behind his desk. In the first picture we saw a white videoconferencing screen at the far right, and another picture, from a different angle, shows another VTC screen standing at the far left side:
A black Tandberg Centric 1700 MXP VTC screen behind DNI James Clapper.
Both these VTC screens have a high-definition camera and are made by the Norwegian manufacturer Tandberg. In 2010 this company was bought by Cisco Systems, so their equipment can be safely used for classified US videoconferencing purposes.
Maybe one of the sets in Clapper's office is used for unclassified, and the other for classified videoconferencing, but it's also possible that both are used for secure video connections but at different classification levels.
At least one of the VTC screens will be used for Top Secret/SCI Videoconferencing, which is for users within the intelligence community. From within secured locations (SCI enclaves), this video feed goes over the JWICS-network, which is secured by stream-based Type 1 bulk encryption devices.
Finally, there's also one computer screen standing in the midst of the telephones. Below is a keyboard and likely there's also a KVM-switch to enable access to multiple physically separated networks through a single "Keyboard, Video and Mouse" set.
For US intelligence officials, such a KVM-switch usually provides access to NIPRNet or DNI-U (Unclassified, for general purposes), SIPRNet (Secret, for military and intelligence purposes) and JWICS (Top Secret/SCI, for intelligence purposes).