Government surveillance is paying off for AT&T. The company has been sharing its trove of call records with the CIA, and it didn't exactly need to be strong-armed with a court order to do it. Instead, the company has a voluntary contract worth more than $10 million, the New York Times reports, putting it in quite a different camp than the tech giants who protested that they were legally compelled to help the NSA. Like the NSA, the CIA focuses on foreign calls, but US calls are in the database.
The program seems to duplicate the NSA's efforts, but the CIA has submitted significantly more data requests, and isn't bound by the FISA court. But the agency has self-imposed some safeguards: Whenever one end of a call is in the US, AT&T masks part of the number and keeps that caller's identity secret. But the agency can pass those masked numbers to the FBI, which can then subpoena the uncensored data from AT&T—and sometimes shares that information with the CIA. Click for more on another way that telecom companies profit from surveillance.