Telcos 'Volunteered' To Hand Over Data To NSA... And Got Over $100 Million For It
from the the-industrial-intelligence-complex dept
As Sanchez notes, while Stellar Wind had been talked about extensively, there were still many important details that hadn't been know that were revealed in this report, including that the program was much broader than originally reported, that President Bush almost certainly lied in public about the extent of the program, that the decision to spy on Americans came from Cheney's office (without consulting the NSA) and the actual numbers of people being spied on, both domestic and foreign (37,644 people, 3,018 of whom were Americans -- though that only counts the "targets" and not the many Americans they likely emailed with or called, whose communications were also intercepted).
But perhaps the most interesting is the role of the telcos. As Sanchez notes, it would appear that AT&T and Verizon actively "volunteered" to hand over data to the government... and then proceeded to make over $100 million dollars as the government paid for this "voluntary" dismantling of the privacy of their customers.
It remains telling that AT&T and Verizon have remained almost entirely silent about all of this, as various other companies mentioned in much more limited programs, have been pretty vocal about things.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001—but before President Bush authorized the program that would become STELLAR WIND on October 4—two major telecommunications companies approached the NSA to volunteer their assistance. Though they’re identified only as “COMPANY A” and “COMPANY B” in the reports, experts agree that they are almost certainly AT&T and Verizon. One of them, COMPANY B, had even done some of its own freelance intelligence work: it told the NSA that it had “noticed odd patterns in domestic calling records surrounding the events of 11 September and offered call records and analysis."
Then again, perhaps “volunteer” isn’t quite the right word. The report tallies the costs of the program, which came to a bit more than $146 million over fiscal years 2002–2006. But only about $44 million of that went to the software and hardware infrastructure needed to sift through all that data. By far the biggest expense category—accounting for the other $102 million in outlays—was the “metadata and content” itself, an apparent reference to payments to the participating telecoms.