It has long been known that AT&T works with the NSA to monitor the internet traffic and call data in the US and overseas. Now, new files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden show the company is by far the agency's biggest spying partner.
The document trove, published by ProPublica and The New York Times, doesn't mention AT&T by name, rather by the code phrase FAIRVIEW, but it's clear from network and cabling maps, and the telco-specific terminology, that we're talking about AT&T.
Spying equipment was installed at AT&T's San Francisco exchange shortly after the September 11 attacks. It was noticed in 2003 by engineer Mark Klein, who blew the gaff on the eavesdropping systems three years later.
The new documents show that by 2011 the telco was delivering 1.1 billion cellular call records a day to the NSA, in addition to the metadata collected from other programs.
Another memo details an operation to monitor internet traffic from the United Nations headquarters in New York. AT&T, which had the contract to supply the world body with internet access, apparently fed 700Mbps of data to the NSA from the UN building. The NSA also had full access to AT&T's international network of undersea data cables, according to the documents.
While the news of the UN hacking has already been revealed, AT&T's involvement has not, and the firm might have problems getting contracts for internet provision, based on the new release showing quite how hand-in-glove the company is with the intelligence agency.
"We do not voluntarily provide information to any investigating authorities other than if a person's life is in danger and time is of the essence," Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesman, told ProPublica. ®