(Full article here - http://news.cnet.com/8301-13739_3-10030134-46.html
"If you thought that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping was limited to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, think again.
While these household names of the telecom industry almost certainly helped the government to illegally snoop on their customers, statements by a number of legal experts suggest that collaboration with the NSA may run far deeper into the wireless phone industry. With over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the United States, the majority of industry-aided snooping likely occurs under the radar, with the dirty-work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of.
A recent article in the London Review of Books revealed that a number of private companies now sell off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information. These companies include ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom--all of which sell "passive probing" data-mining services to governments around the world.
The massive collection of customer data comes down to the interplay of two specific issues: First, thousands of companies play small, niche support roles in the wireless phone industry, and as such these firms learn quite a bit about the calling habits of millions of U.S. citizens. Second, the laws relating to information sharing and wiretapping specifically regulate companies that provide services to the general public (such as AT&T and Verizon), but they do not cover the firms that provide services to the major carriers or connect communications companies to one other.
Thus, while it may be impossible for the NSA to legally obtain large-scale, real-time customer location information from Verizon, the spooks at Fort Meade can simply go to the company that owns and operates the wireless towers that Verizon uses for its network and get accurate information on anyone using those towers--or go to other entities connecting the wireless network to the landline network. The wiretapping laws, at least in this situation, simply don't apply.
With the passage of laws like the FISA Amendments Act and the USA Patriot Act, in most cases, requests for customer information come with a gag order, forbidding the companies from notifying the public, or the end users whose calling information is being snooped upon. Gidari summed it up this way:
"So any entity--from tower provider, to a third-party spam filter, to WAP gateway operator to billing to call center customer service--can get legal process and be compelled to assist in silence. They likely don't volunteer because of reputation and contractual obligations, but they won't resist either." "