The Washington Post followed up the release of the super-secret NSA "Black Budget" on Thursday with another detail from the leaked intelligence budget: American companies who provide the agency access to their communications networks are often paid for their trouble. It's called the Corporate Partner Access Project, and carries a yearly budget of $278 million.
According to the Washington Post, the companies paid through the program could go way back with the agency, to the 1970's BLARNEY program. The budget doesn't name the companies in question, though the Post asked AT&T, Verizon, and other major telecomm companies for comment, all of whom declined. The revelation, the Post argues, could call into question whether some companies see a profit motive in complying with government requests for data. On the other hand, the payments could help deter overly broad requests from the government, if they know they'll be billed for it later. The payments also comply with the law, which calls for reimbursement for costs associated with intelligence requests.