16:30 GMT22 February 2020
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    The confirmation of AT&T’s extensive cooperation with the National Security Agency (NSA) demonstrates the extent to which US companies are subject to government coercion, a former top telecommunications executive told Sputnik.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — On Saturday, The New York Times confirmed that the NSA had been working closely with AT&T to monitor its customers’ communications from at least 2003 until 2013. The report was based on newly released documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    "You have, quite frankly, a 21st century version of fascism, with a strong central government that has nearly unlimited dictatorial powers, controls both the economy and public policy," the ex-CEO said. As a result, companies "have no choice but to cooperate."

    The revelations came as no surprise to the former telecommunications executive who was given top secret security clearance to work with US intelligence agencies in the period following September 11, 2001.

    He described the US federal government’s "stranglehold" on companies, commenting on his own experience of rejecting requests from the intelligence community.

    "If you don’t agree to what they want… there are a whole bunch of ways they can make your life miserable, and they do, which is why everybody now falls in line," the former executive explained.

    In 2013, documents provided by Snowden proved that the NSA had worked closely with Verizon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and other giant telecommunications and technology firms. After the documents were leaked, the companies allegedly fought to improve transparency concerning government requests for information.

    According to The New York Times story, the NSA’s contract with AT&T was more than twice as large as its program with Verizon. The partnership included AT&T allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment at 17 of the company’s major internet hubs to intercept communications data.

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    National Security Agency (NSA), AT&T, Edward Snowden
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