AT&T, Sprint also part of NSA's phone data collection probe

The National Security Agency's phone and data collection effort targeting Verizon (NYSE: VZ) also included AT&T (NYSE: T) and Sprint (NYSE: S), according to various reports.

While Verizon was initially the only provider named by The Guardian that was asked to give information to the NSA, AT&T and Sprint also cooperated during the seven-year-old program to collect telephone "meta data"-- including the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation--according to reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter. None of the service providers would comment if they received court orders from the government.

Verizon Business was asked to give the NSA information on all telephone calls made on its systems, including those within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries.

T-Mobile USA and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) would not say if they had received court orders to turn over such data, the New York Times reported.

Two separate reports by the Washington Post and the Guardian revealed that the NSA also runs a program called "PRISM," which allows the NSA to access Internet-based audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to track potential terrorist threats.

The emergence of this probe has drawn fire from civil liberterians, who say that the investigations are examples of the overreach of the surveillance state that has grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Government officials maintain that such investigations are lawful under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the antiterrorism law passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Everyone should just calm down and understand this isn't anything that is brand new,'' said Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, who added that the phone-data collection program has "worked to prevent'' terrorist attacks, in a Wall Street Journal article.

Verizon general counsel Randy Milch said in an internal memo to employees posted on its public policy blog yesterday that if the carrier receives an order to hand over call information to the NSA, that it must comply with that request.

For more:
- FierceWireless has this article
- see this NYT article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

Related articles:
Verizon Business forced to give call records to the NSA
Walking the walk on Internet regulation