Report: The NSA pays millions for US telecom access

The Washington Post reports that the NSA paid $278 million this fiscal year to tap into phone lines, e-mail and instant messages

When it comes to tapping into U.S. telecommunications networks for surreptitious surveillance, the U.S. National Security Agency can't be accused of not paying its way.

The government agency pays "hundreds of millions of dollars a year" to U.S. telecommunications companies for the equipment and service required to intercept telephone calls, emails and instant messages of potential interest, according to a story in Thursday's Washington Post.

For the current fiscal year, the NSA will pay US$278 million for such access, and had paid $394 million in fiscal 2011, according to the Post.

Although previous news reports of NSA surveillance noted that the agency paid the costs for tapping into communications networks, the exact amount the agency has paid has not been cited before, according to the Post.

One of the largest of the 16 U.S. intelligence offices, the NSA is in charge of collecting and analyzing data to track foreign activities that could be harmful to the U.S. The agency is overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense's Director of National Intelligence.

The practice dates back at least to the 1970s. These data collection programs -- which have gone under names such as Blarney, Stormbrew, Fairview, and Oakstar -- are separate from the PRISM program first publicly unveiled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. PRISM collects data from U.S. service providers such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google, whereas with these programs, the NSA collects potential data of interest as it moves across telecommunication gateways.

The article did not provide the names of any telecommunications companies that participate in the program, though notes they typically are paid for the costs of hardware and the labor to install and run the necessary equipment, as well as a certain percentage for profit.

The privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center had noted that it is troublesome that the NSA is paying so much to telecommunication companies given that their customers expect that their communications remain private.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Topics: Government use of IT, Carriers, telecommunication, verizon, at&t, government
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?