Snowden documents: AT&T helped

AT&T spent at least a decade working closely with the National Security Agency (NSA) in a “highly collaborative” partnership, a new report says. The telecommunication giant gave the NSA unprecedented access to billions of its users’ emails and phone records, according to The New York Times.
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The report is based on documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden detailing the close relationship between the agency and AT&T.

Those records said AT&T had an “extreme willingness to help” the NSA’s intelligence gathering programs between 2003 and 2013, and aided the agency’s spying efforts by sharing information on its domestic email and phone records. One file said, for example, that AT&T began providing the NSA with 1.1 billion of its cellphone calling records daily starting in 2011. Another file revealed that the company also gave the agency access to its Internet service provider networks.

A third document showed that AT&T provided technical assistance in the wiretapping of Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters. The report said the NSA’s budget for its joint initiatives with AT&T in 2013 was more than double the amount allocated for its next most expensive program. AT&T also installed surveillance equipment in 17 of its U.S. Internet hubs, it said. In exchange, its engineers received first access to the NSA’s latest surveillance technology.

Snowden’s latest release of documents also demonstrates the warm cooperation between AT&T and the NSA.

Files from 2003 show AT&T was the NSA’s first partner to authorize a collection capability on its Internet networks providing the agency with a “live” presence on the global net. The New York Times on Saturday said the telecommunication company’s information-sharing with the NSA over its foreign-to-foreign email traffic was especially valuable for the agency. AT&T was processing 60 million foreign-to-foreign emails for the NSA as of 2013, it said. It is unclear whether AT&T or other companies like it are still collaborating with the spying agency today.

“We don’t comment on matters of national security,” an AT&T spokesperson told The New York Times on Saturday. “We do not provide information to any investigating authorities other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence,” added Brad Burns, another ATT&T representative, before refusing further comment.

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