Forbes – The National Security Agency pays AT&T T +0.65%, Verizon and Sprint several hundred million dollars a year for access to 81% of all international phone calls into the US, according to a leaked inspector general’s report, which has been reported by the Washington Post, AP, and the New York Review of Books. In fact., this secret report says that “NSA maintains relationships with over 100 U.S. companies, underscoring that the U/S. has the “home-field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide communications,” the New York Review of Books reported in its August 15 issue. These secret cooperative agreements reveal that NSA pays surveillance fees to telcos and phone companies were first made public by Edward Snowden, the former NSA administrator, now resident in Russia.
AT&T charges $325 for each activation fee and $10 a day to monitor the account, according to the AP. Verizon charges $775 per tapping for the first month and then $500 a month thereafter, according to the Associated Press today. The article reported that Microsoft MSFT +0.51%, Yahoo YHOO +1.65% and Google refused to say how much they charged to allow the government to tap into emails and other non-telephonic communications.
In a separate report the Washington Post reported that NSA pays the telcos roughly $300 million annually for access to information on their communications; where and when they occurred, the identity of the person called and how long the conversation lasted. This surveillance is accomplished by tapping into “high volume circuits and packet-switched networks.” The ability to obtain this information was authorized by the US Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994 by the Clinton administration.
While $300 million for giant telephone companies is only a slight fraction of their overall revenues, it is quite a shocking revelation to think that the telcos consumers pay every month to hook them up with the world are also being paid by the U.S. government to maintain watch over our daily communication whether over wired instruments or unwired communications equipment like I pads and cell phones. Snowden recently released information by means of a slide which revealed that the government ” was able to access real-time-data on the live voice, text, e-mail, or internet chat services, in addition to analyzing stored data.” (like your Facebook account)