Monument to Privacy: Is This Manhattan Skyscraper a NSA Listening Post?

Many have walked by and wondered what purpose this vast, windowless skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan serves. 33 Thomas Street, also known as the "Long Lines Building" (LLB), is an impenetrable monolithic fortress amid canyons of glass and steel. Ostensibly an AT&T telecoms building, the New York Times have recently reported (based on investigative work by The Intercept) that this "blank face[d] monument to privacy" may in fact be a NSA (National Security Agency) listening post, hidden in plain sight.

Designed by San Franciscan John Carl Warnecke—an architect who worked closely with the Kennedy administration, and designer of the late President's mausoleum—the Brutalist tower was completed in 1974. Built to withstand a nuclear attack on New York or, at the very least, a devastating loss of power to the city, the 550 foot-tall (169 meters) structure is supported by systems that allow it to provide enough food, water and fuel to sustain 1,500 people for two weeks completely removed from public infrastructure.

Plan for the tower mechanical equipment floor at 33 Thomas Street. Image via The Intercept

The history of the LLB's programme is not a total fabrication. While it continues to house AT&T’s long distance telephone switches and carrier exchanges (originally as the New York Telephone Company), it now operates as a data-center and "gateway switch" – a threshold for international calls. John Carl Warnecke & Associates' vision, according to The Intercept, was to create "a communication nerve center" built as a "20th Century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within." They continue:

True to the designers’ original plans, there are no windows and the building is not illuminated. At night it becomes a giant shadow, blending into the darkness, its large square vents emitting a distinct, dull hum that is frequently drowned out by the sound of passing traffic and wailing sirens.

Story via New York Times. At this time no concrete evidence is available which connects the building to the NSA – for more information read The Intercept's article in full.

33 Thomas Street, New York City. Image Courtesy of wikimedia user Marcin Wichary (CC BY 2.0)
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Cite: AD Editorial Team. "Monument to Privacy: Is This Manhattan Skyscraper a NSA Listening Post?" 23 Nov 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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