New York Times that AT&T is receiving more than $10 million per year in order to supply the CIA with international call data, including data on calls made by Americans. This is not a situation where AT&T is compelled to comply, but a voluntary contract between the carrier and the CIA. However, this isn't a deal to get any and all data from AT&T, but more targeted data.Government officials have told the
The way it works is that the CIA determines terrorism suspects and gives the phone numbers of those suspects to AT&T. AT&T then searches its database for those numbers and returns data that could theoretically be used to identify foreign associates of those suspects.
There has been constant debate over the level of involvement of various tech companies and carriers in government investigations, and this news adds something to the debate. The explanation sounds reasonable enough with only targeted data being exchanged, of course we're left to trust that the CIA isn't overstepping and is really only requesting data on terror suspects. And, all we've learned over the course of this fiasco brings everything into question.