Reports about major telcos collaborating with the intelligence community continue to emerge. New York Times has now reported that CIA pays more than $10 million a year to AT&T for access to international calling records. AT&T has confirmed that it works with CIA, but refused to divulge the nature of this partnership.
CIA apparently uses only such data from AT&T which is concerned with international calls. Since this data is essentially related to overseas calls, it may not be directly covered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This may explain why CIA is able to get its hands on this data without producing any legal warrant.
AT&T, on the other hand, voluntarily helps the intelligence agency and gets paid a handsome sum in return. According to unnamed government officials who spoke with NYT on this issue, CIA pays more than $10 million to AT&T each year as a compensation for the services rendered by the carrier.
As soon as the report by NYT triggered a new debate about the privacy of customer data, AT&T was quick to dish out a standard statement. The statement is posted below:
“In all cases, whenever any governmental entity anywhere seeks information from us, we ensure that the request and our response are completely lawful and proper. We ensure that we maintain customer information in compliance with the laws of the United States and other countries where information may be maintained. Like all telecom providers, we routinely charge governments for producing the information provided. We do not comment on questions concerning national security.”
Needless to point out, the statement does not contradict the reports that AT&T is paid well for its ‘completely lawful and proper’ compliance with CIA’s data requests.