The Federal Bureau of Investigation last year issued between 2,000 and 2,999 subpoenas to AT&T Inc. in connection with counterterrorism or counterintelligence, the telecommunications titan disclosed in an annual transparency report.
AT&T said the “national security letters" it received impacted between 4,000 and 4,999 customer accounts. The subpoenas do not demand the actual content of communications but relate to such information as subscriber details and phone numbers dialed, AT&T noted.
Last year, Verizon Communications Inc. received between 1,000 and 2,000 national security letters, according to its transparency report.
Verizon said it is not authorized to disclose the precise number of letters.
The information was disclosed after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) raised privacy concerns last year about wireless surveillance after publishing an investigation that revealed data from eight U.S. carriers.
“In the past year, there has been greater focus than ever on the use of legal demands by governments around the world to obtain customer data," Verizon general counsel Randal Milch stated last year in a news release. “Like others in the industry, the aim of our transparency report is to keep our customers informed about government requests for their data and how we respond to those requests. Verizon calls on governments around the world to provide more information on the types and amounts of data they collect and the legal processes that apply when they do so."
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government and Americans have become more keenly aware of the threats of international terrorism, seeking to balance the safety of the public with the right to privacy.
Pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), AT&T was ordered by courts to respond to requests for data concerning such national security probes as international terrorism and espionage. The data can include “content" and “non-content." Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2013, AT&T received fewer than 1,000 requests for content (0-999) impacting 35,000 to 35,999 customer accounts, according to the company.
Recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice authorized AT&T to disclose the national security letters and FISA court orders, the company said.