AT&T and NSA in decade-long partnership

17 August 2015 |


US conglomerate AT&T has worked closely with the country’s national security agency (NSA) for a decade, helping the government to spy on vast quantities of internet traffic in the US, according to local reports.

Although it is widely known that US telcos had shared certain information with the NSA – thanks to a number of legal requirements – it has now come to light that AT&T’s collaboration was particularly unique.

NSA documents detailing the relationship between AT&T in the decade leading up to 2013 have now been discovered, with one describing it as “highly collaborative” and another applauding AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help”.

The documents revealed an enormous NSA budget for the installation of monitoring equipment at AT&T sites; more than double that which it spends with other US operators.

NSA surveillance is allegedly installed in at least 17 of AT&T’s internet hubs in the US, notably larger than the number of Verizon sites fitted with government monitoring.

Additionally, AT&T had agreed a partnership with the government agency whereby the operator would act as a test-bed for NSA tracking systems as it refines its spying methods.

Another document reminded NSA officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, reminding them: “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.”

The documents were provided by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, and have been jointly reviewed by the New York Times and ProPublica.

It is not clear if the programs still operate in the same way today and an AT&T spokesperson told the New York Times: “We don’t comment on matters of national security.”