November 7, 2013 Last Updated 8:20 am

NYT reports that the CIA has become a profit center for AT&T

Agency pays carrier $10 million to supply information on its customers

The famous line from Karl Marx is that “the last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.” The idea is that the profit motive is so strong that it will lead to rather bad decisions concerning who to do business with.

According to a report in The New York Times, AT&T is now in business with the Central Intelligence Agency, receiving more than $10 million a year to pass on information on its customers. The deal, according to the NYT’s Charlie Savage, is strictly business, no court order was necessary to get AT&T on board.

The report treads carefully, quoting officials as saying that “the agency imposes privacy safeguards on the program.”

Charlie Savage was one of the three reporters with the byline on a story just last week that said that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters was tapping fiber-optic cables connecting Google’s and Yahoo’s overseas servers. (Claire Cain Miller and Nicole Perlroth were the other two NYT reporters credited with the story.) The story actually first reported by The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, and was originated in more Edward Snowden documents.

GoogleCloud-NSA-graphicGoogle reacted publicly to the report, saying that they were “outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”

Maybe they will be even madder this morning, knowing that AT&T is at least getting paid.

The old canard is that one needs to follow the money. Maybe, in this case, the emphasis should be on the amount of money the government is spending to tap into information on the customers of U.S. businesses. Cutting back on government spending seems to be something those on the right can get behind. But one wonders if both sides of the aisle in Congress will be less willing to be a deficit hawk if it means taking money out of the hands of companies such as AT&T.

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