The New York Times reported Saturday (Aug. 15) that the National Security Agency considered a decades-long data collection relationship with AT&T "highly collaborative." AT&T countered that it only provides info when mandated by the government, other that in emergency situations.
The Times conceded that it is no secret that NSA has been working with telecom companies to collect phone and Internet data, but Citing NSA documents reviewed by the paper and supplied by NSA contractor and now-famous leaker Edward Snowden, it said that the AT&T relationship with the spy agency was considered "unique and especially productive."
That included providing access to billions of e-mails and technical assistance, when ordered by a court, provide access to all e-mails at UN headquarters, which is a client.
“We do not provide information to any investigating authorities without a court order or other mandatory process other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence," said AT&T in response to the story. "For example, in a kidnapping situation we could provide help tracking down called numbers to assist law enforcement.”
The Obama Administration has has taken steps to rein in bulk data collection while the issue remains a hot topic in Congress, including passage in June of the USA Freedom Act, which reforms Patriot Act-authorized NSA bulk data collection practices revealed by Snowden. Bill supporters argue it ends bulk data collection while others dispute that characterization.