13:02 GMT16 January 2021
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    The recently disclosed documents unveil that the National Security Agency owes its successful internet surveillance to its most devoted partner - AT&T Inc.

    It turns out that the NSA harbored especially warm feelings for its most fertile and "highly collaborative" partner, AT&T, even taking the trouble to remind its representatives to be nice to AT&T employees.

    "This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship," one of the documents reads.

    According to the documents, provided by the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden and reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica, the telecom giant has earned special treatment with its "extreme willingness to help."

    The above-mentioned help was being consistently provided by the company at least from 2003 to 2013, simplifying for NSA the problem of spying on huge amounts of Internet traffic, especially foreign-to-foreign communication that passed through US wires.

    The documents make it clear the telecom powerhouse gave the NSA access to billions of emails and online interactions, assisted in wiretapping all Internet communications at the UN headquarters and, basically, never was a letdown when it came to giving a spying hand.

    Back in 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, AT&T and MCI behaved when it came to the wiretapping programs of the Bush administration, a draft report by the NSA's

    inspector general shows.

    The importance of the company's assistance is graphically reflected in dollars. The NSA's 2013 budget for the AT&T partnership happened to be more than twice that of the next-largest such program, the documents say.

    In 2011, AT&T started providing the NSA with domestic cellphone calling records — handing more than 1.1 billion a day, an internal agency newsletter reveals. This goes against the intelligence officials previous claims that the program of collecting the records of Americans' phone calls, disclosed by Snowden, consisted mostly of landline phone records.

    "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," an AT&T spokesman Brad Burns commented.

    It is uncertain if the programs currently operate in the same way.


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    classified documents, spying, surveillance, National Security Agency (NSA), AT&T, Edward Snowden, US
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