The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has depended on an “extraordinary," decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T, according to an article by ProPublica and The New York Times.
While it long has been known that U.S. telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed NSA documents provided by former contractor Edward Snowden show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive.
AT&T’s cooperation has involved a wide range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013.
AT&T has given the NSA access — through several methods covered under different legal rules — to billions of emails as they’ve flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order allowing the wiretapping of all Internet communications at United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.