The New York Times reports that government officials have confirmed that telecom giant AT&T has been selling call data to the Central Intelligence Agency and pocketing as much as $10 million a year from the sales.
The data is being harvested under the pretense of counter-terrorism operations by the agency, and includes records of international calls made by U.S. citizens. The program is a completely voluntary contractual arrangement, and was not prompted by a subpoena or court order.
“The C.I.A. 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 spokesman Dean Boyd, who would neither confirm nor deny the program.
“The C.I.A. is expressly forbidden from undertaking intelligence collection activities inside the United States ‘for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of U.S. persons,’ and the C.I.A. does not do so.”
The process involves the CIA supplying the phone numbers of international terrorism suspects so that AT&T can conduct searches its databases and produce call records intended to help the agency identify potential associates.
AT&T maintains that they do not provide the CIA with the identities or phone numbers of American citizens who place calls overseas, and that the arrangement does not violate any U.S. laws.
“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,” said AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel.
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