Feeds

AT&T turns spying on customers for CIA into cash waterfall – report

Telco runs $10m-a-year snooping contract, whisper sources

The Power of One Infographic

The Central Intelligence Agency is reportedly paying AT&T the princely sum of $10m a year in exchange for a detailed list of international calls made on its networks.

Several government officials familiar with the program told The New York Times that the system is a voluntary one by the company, and was set up in 2010. It apparently allows the CIA to provide a list of numbers used by suspects to the US telco, which then identifies other numbers contacted and who they called afterwards.

The CIA's remit begin "at the water's edge," meaning it can only act on suspects outside of US soil. To keep this program legal if a number comes up that belongs to a US citizen then AT&T blanks out the details, although the CIA can then ask the FBI to investigate.

Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, told the NYT: "We value our customers' privacy and work hard to protect it by ensuring compliance with the law in all respects. We do not comment on questions concerning national security."

AT&T has had problems with spying on its customers in the past. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the company allowed the NSA to install monitoring stations in its San Francisco headquarters. After Mark Klein, one of AT&T's engineers, blew the whistle on the practice the telco was sued by the EFF before the government granted it retroactive immunity.

While apparently legal, the CIA's deal with the company does show some serious initiative by the company in turning surveillance into a revenue source. That said, the NSA does also fund companies taking part in the PRISM surveillance scheme to cover expenses, according to documents leaked by ex-intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden.

"The CIA protects the nation and upholds privacy rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and counterintelligence in accordance with U.S. laws," said CIA spokesman Dean Boyd.

"The CIA is expressly forbidden from undertaking intelligence collection activities inside the United States 'for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of US persons,' and the CIA does not do so." ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.