The US National Security Agency has used a unique, decades-old partnership with AT&T to snoop on Internet usage, according to newly disclosed documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
The documents provided by the former NSA contractor and reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica described a “highly collaborative” telecom giant that demonstrated an “extreme willingness to help.”
The Times said it was unclear whether the programs are still operational in the same way today. The documents were dated from 2003 to 2013.
AT&T granted the NSA access to billions of emails that traveled through its domestic networks, and helped the spy agency wiretap all online communications at United Nations headquarters, the documents show.
AT&T has provided the Internet line to the world body’s headquarters.Company spokesman Brad Burns insisted that “we do not provide information to any investigating authorities without a court order or other mandatory process other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence.”
AT&T began providing to the NSA some 1.1 billion domestic cellphone calling records a day in 2011, after a “push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” the newly released documents showed.
That same year, the NSA spent $188.9 million on Fairview, more than twice the amount on the next-largest corporate program, Stormbrew ($66.8 million).Intelligence officials had initially said that the phone calls the NSA had collected were mostly from landline, not cellular, phone records.