AT&T Says U.S. Sought Surveillance on 35,000 User Accounts

Feb 18, 2014 3:17 pm ET

(Updates with Verizon comment in final paragraph.)

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, said the American government sought access to the content of more than 35,000 user accounts in the first six months of 2013 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The government asked to view the content of communications, such as e-mails and texts, by making fewer than 1,000 requests, AT&T said today in a statement on its website. AT&T also made fewer than 1,000 non-content requests for user information such as names, locations and e-mail addresses. For all of 2013, the Dallas-based company received more than 2,000 national security letters -- which seek information for investigations -- affecting more than 4,000 customer accounts.

The disclosures on FISA requests are the first by a top U.S. phone company since a January decision by the Justice Department allowed more surveillance information to be released. Google Inc. said this month it got FISA content requests affecting more than 9,000 user accounts in January through June of 2013.

AT&T said it received 301,816 demands for information from federal, state and local courts, including subpoenas, court orders and search warrants, in 2013. Of those demands, the company provided no or partial information in 13,707 cases and rejected or challenged the order in 3,756 cases.

Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T’s biggest rival, reported 321,545 subpoenas, orders and warrants from law enforcement in 2013, in addition to more than 1,000 national security letters, it said in January. Ed McFadden, a spokesman for Verizon, said the company is reviewing its numbers and should have a disclosure on FISA requests ready within days.

--Editors: Crayton Harrison, Sarah Rabil