Phone companies earn big profits as Uncle Sam’s wiretapping merchants

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, July 11, 2013 16:03 EDT
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Man enjoying rain of money via Shutterstock
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American phone carriers have found a lucrative new market in selling the government the ability to wiretap their customers, according to CBS News.

AT&T and Verizon are the two carriers making the most off this scheme, CBS notes, but others are getting in on the action as well.

Verizon is particularly pricey, charging the government $775 to connect a wiretap, and another $500 every month it stays connected.

AT&T comes in second with a $325 activation fee, along with a $10-a-day running tab. Smaller carriers like Cricket are said to charge around $250 per connection. Smaller fees were associated with text messages, but emails were largely given away for free.

The details were revealed in letters the companies sent to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) last year, CBS noted. AT&T estimated that it took in over $24 million in wiretapping fees from 2007-2011, the report adds.

Verizon’s disclosure letter (PDF) contained similar numbers, and fees have been collected since 2009.

CBS also added that the average wiretap is estimated to cost about $50,000 in reimbursements and operating expenses.

[Man enjoying rain of money via Shutterstock]

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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