AT&T helped the NSA conduct surveillance on both Americans and foreign citizens.
NSA + AT&T = BFF. On Monday, The Intercept published a report detailing AT&T's collaborative relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA) via a program codenamed FAIRVIEW. According to the report, AT&T facilities in eight U.S. cities play a central role in helping the NSA conduct surveillance on both Americans and foreign citizens — even those who are not AT&T customers. The report provides details on each facility, as well as supporting evidence drawn from public records, interviews, and classified NSA documents.
SPYING ON AMERICAN SOIL. According to The Intercept's report, there's a reason these eight particular facilities, located in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., are of interest to the NSA — each is a "backbone" facility in the AT&T network, processing huge quantities of AT&T customer data.
Beyond that, these facilities also process the data of other communication providers through something called "peering." Essentially, when a company such as Sprint finds its own network overloaded, it can pay AT&T for some of its available bandwidth. At one point or another, AT&T routes the Sprint customers' data through one of these eight facilities.
POWERFUL ALLIES. According to the report, AT&T didn't just give the NSA access to the emails, online chats, phone calls, and other data from customers using its network — it actively helped the agency process the data, prioritizing communications from certain nations and ranking data based on its potential intelligence value.
Officials from all the parties involved are remaining pretty tightlipped about the whole thing. The NSA neither confirms nor denies anything involving the AT&T facilities, while AT&T maintains it's just doing whatever the law requires. Still, it makes total sense that the NSA would want to partner with AT&T — after all, who better to facilitate government surveillance efforts than the world's largest telecommunications company?
READ MORE: The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities [The Intercept]
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