Leaked Documents Detail Tight NSA-AT&T Partnership

In one example, AT&T reportedly turned on a new collection capability that forwarded 400 billion metadata records and 1 million emails a day to the NSA

Nicole Henderson, Contributor

August 18, 2015

2 Min Read
Leaked Documents Detail Tight NSA-AT&T Partnership
The NSA data center with the Salt Lake Valley in the background in Bluffdale, Utah, in 2013. The data center has reportedly been plagued by power surges that destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and delayed the opening of the center for a year. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)



This article originally appeared at The WHIR

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents describe a “highly collaborative” relationship between AT&T and the NSA.

According to a report over the weekend by The New York Times, AT&T’s cooperation included a range of classified activities from 2003 to 2013, giving the NSA access to billions of emails as they have been transmitted across its networks in the US.

The release of the documents come as privacy advocates rally against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) which has been widely criticized for allowing companies to hand over user data to the government without a warrant. Voting on CISA has been delayed and is slated for the fall.

Watch a recording of a Data Center Knowledge webinar on the impact of NSA surveillance disclosures on the data center provider industry

The division of the NSA that handles corporate partnerships, including that with AT&T, is responsible for more than 80 percent of the information the NSA collects.

In one example, AT&T participated in a NSA program called Fairview in 2003 where it turned on a new collection capability that forwarded the agency 400 billion Internet metadata records and one million emails a day to the keyword selection system in one of its first months of operation, according to the documents.

A 2012 presentation said that the NSA does not typically have direct access to telecoms’ systems. “Corporate sites are often controlled by the partner, who filters the communications before sending to NSA,” the presentation said. By 2013, AT&T was giving NSA access to 60 million foreign-to-foreign emails per day.

Domestic wiretapping laws do not cover foreign-to-foreign emails, according to the report, which means AT&T had provided the information voluntarily, not in response to court orders.

AT&T denied in a statement provided to the NYT that it voluntarily provides information to investigating authorities “other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence.”

Last year, AT&T released a transparency report that showed it had received 301,816 subpoenas, court orders and search warrants for real-time information.

This first ran at http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/leaked-documents-detail-highly-collaborative-partnership-between-nsa-and-att

About the Author(s)

Nicole Henderson

Contributor, IT Pro Today

Nicole Henderson covers daily cloud news and features online for ITPro Today. Prior to ITPro Today, she was editor at Talkin' Cloud (now Channel Futures) and the WHIR. She has a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto.

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