Officials have confirmed that the CIA is paying AT&T over $10 million annually under a “voluntary contract” to provide them with call data on “suspected terrorists” from the company’s massive phone call database.
Under the previously undisclosed program, the CIA supplies “suspect” phone numbers and AT&T gives them records of calls, both foreign and domestic. Officials insist there are some safeguards to mask Americans’ personal information from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying domestically.
That assurance is limited, at best, with officials saying that the “masked” information can be referred to the FBI, which can then force AT&T to turn over information that the CIA wouldn’t be allowed to obtain directly.
The CIA program appears to be an attempt to duplicate the phone surveillance the NSA already controversially does, and officials cited “time-sensitive threat situations” for the use of AT&T.
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