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

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmenttelecommunicationverizonat&tCarriersGovernment use of IT

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

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?