AT&T Reportedly Showed ‘Extreme Willingness To Help’ NSA Spying

An analysis of documents provided by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that AT&T participated in a long-standing and "highly collaborative" partnership giving the agency access to billions of e-mails and other online communications on its networks.

Reports describing that relationship in detail were published over the weekend by the New York Times and the non-profit investigative reporting organization ProPublica.

Although previous documents from Snowden have shown that a number of network operators in the U.S. have cooperated on online surveillance activities with the NSA, AT&T's participation has been "unique" and "especially productive," according to the news report published Saturday. The investigation also found that Verizon has participated in a similar program with the NSA.

We contacted both AT&T and Verizon for their responses to the report. A Verizon spokesperson told us the company had no comment. AT&T spokesperson Fletcher Cook said, "We do not provide information to any investigating authorities without a court order or other mandatory process other than if a person's life is in danger and time is of the essence. For example, in a kidnapping situation we could provide help tracking down called numbers to assist law enforcement."

'Fairview' Program Launched in 1985

According to NSA documents, which cover the period from 2003 to 2013, a U.S.-based telecommunications company that is not identified by name entered into a partnership program named "Fairview" with the intelligence agency in 1985. That was after AT&T had taken over the long-distance telephone operations of the Bell Telephone monopoly broken up by federal regulators in 1984. Investigators with the New York Times and ProPublica used a "constellation of evidence" to link Fairview to AT&T.

For example, one NSA document referred to the August 5, 2011, repair of a trans-Pacific communication cable used by the program that...

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