AT&T and NSA collaborated on "vast" surveillance program

US telecoms giant AT&T has been working with the National Security Agency (NSA) for decades to help it carry out mass internet surveillance, according to recent reports.

Leaked NSA documents dated between 2003 and 2013 reveal AT&T has been 'highly collaborative' and had 'an extreme willingness to help' the spy agency to track US citizens.

The New York Times and ProPublica said AT&T gave the NSA access to billions of the American public's emails as they flowed through its US network and also provided the technical expertise needed by the NSA to tap into communications at the UN's headquarters in New York.

The budget for carrying out such operations was double that of other large surveillance operations, part of which was spent on installing equipment in 17 of AT&T's US-based internet hubs. This is much more than the NSA implemented on competitor Verizon's network, which, it has been claimed, shows a closer relationship between AT&T and the spy agency.

Although ProPublica didn't mentioned AT&T as the company involved in such a high-level of spying, the evidence presented by the NSA pointed directly at the telecoms giant, which has mobile, internet and other network-based services in the US.

AT&T spokesman, Brad Burns told the New York Times: "We do not voluntarily provide information to any investigating authorities other than if a person's life is in danger and time is of the essence."

Former agency contractor Edward Snowden provided the NSA's documents to the New York Times and ProPublica. They also revealed Verizon, one of America's other largest telcos had been working with the spy agency on a project called Stormbrew that involved pulling data from the company's fibre-optic cables.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.