AT&T lets NSA hide and surveil in plain sight, The Intercept reports

Big Brother has reportedly never left us.

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Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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Eight AT&T facilities are reportedly used for the NSA's surveillance initiative.

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The NSA has reportedly set up shop in AT&T buildings across the US for at least the past several years.

The Intercept says it's identified eight AT&T facilities that are used for the National Security Agency's surveillance initiative. They are reportedly linked to a program called "Fairview," started in 1985, and AT&T is the only company involved with it. The facilities are spread out in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, according to the report. Last year, The Intercept reported on a likely NSA surveillance site in New York. Monday's report is the first time it's identified other AT&T facilities it says are involved in the program. 

"Like all companies, we are required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement entities by complying with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal requirements," said Jim Greer, the director of corporate communication at AT&T, in an emailed statement. "And, we provide voluntary assistance to law enforcement when a person's life is in danger and in other immediate, emergency situations.  In all cases, we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we act in compliance with the law.

This isn't the first time AT&T's relationship with the government surveillance agency has grabbed attention. In 2006, AT&T technician Mark Klein disclosed that he met with NSA officials and witnessed domestic internet traffic being "diverted" to a secure room, 641A, in the AT&T building at 611 Folsom St. in San Francisco. This building is one of the eight the Intercept reports is "central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls and online chats passing across US territory." 

The issue returned to the spotlight in 2013 when Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing NSA surveillance programs Prism and Upstream. The programs intercepted communications of US citizens "accidentally" because the NSA couldn't separate the information of suspects from that of the general public. The law that authorized these two programs was set to expire in January this year, but the Trump administration renewed them

"NSA can neither confirm nor deny its role in alleged classified intelligence activities," a NSA spokesman told CNET. "NSA conducts its foreign signals intelligence mission under the legal authorities established by Congress and is bound by both policy and law to protect US persons' privacy and civil liberties. NSA's collection activities pursuant to these authorities are subject to ongoing, extensive oversight by all three branches of government, and in the interest of transparency, the Government has declassified and publicly released thousands of pages of materials to pertaining to its collection activities in recent years."

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