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Is the CIA Paying AT&T for Your Call Data?

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Since Edward Snowden first revealed the NSA was collecting massive amounts of call data from Americans, most attention has been on the controversial surveillance programs of the United States intelligence community accompanied with demands for more transparency and accountability. While wireless providers and Internet companies have scrambled to do damage control for the role they played in these programs, many of them claim they were coerced into cooperating by federal agencies or forced to by subpena or court order.

However, a recent report by the New York Times reveals some of these companies may not be so innocent. In fact, government officials now say the CIA is currently paying communications giant AT&T $10 million a year for their assistance in counter-terrorism overseas. AT&T was not bullied into doing either, but participated voluntarily. The contract between the CIA and AT&T allows the intelligence agency access to a massive phone database, which includes international calls from Americans.

"The C.I.A. supplies phone numbers of overseas terrorism suspects, and AT&T searches its database and provides records of calls that may help identify foreign associates, the officials said."

While the program may only affect a limited group of Americans, it does raise further questions about the relationship between the intelligence community and major companies in the communications and Internet industries, as well as the overall scope of the collection of metadata.

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