Secretive White House Surveillance Program Gives Cops Access to Trillions of US Phone Records

The DAS program echoes several surveillance programs dating back decades, including a Drug Enforcement Agency program launched in 1992 which forced phone companies to hand over records of virtually all incoming and outgoing calls from more than 100 other countries; the National Security Agency bulk metadata collection program, that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit deemed illegal in 2014; and the Call Details Records program, which suffered from “technical irregularities” leading the NSA to collect millions of calls that it was “not authorized to receive.”

Unlike these earlier programs, which were subject to congressional oversight, DAS is not. A senior aide to Wyden told WIRED that the program takes advantage of numerous “loopholes” in federal privacy law. The fact that it is effectively run from the White House, for example, means it is exempt from rules requiring assessments of its privacy impacts. The White House is also exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, reducing the public’s overall ability to shed light on the program.

Because AT&T’s call recording collection occurs along a telecommunications “backbone network,” the protections enshrined in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act may not apply to the program.

Earlier this month, Wyden and other House and Senate lawmakers introduces comprehensive privacy legislation known as the Government Oversight Reform Act. The bill contains numerous provisions that, if enacted, would close most, if not all, of these loopholes, thereby making the DAS program, in its current form, explicitly illegal.

Read Wyden in full letter addressed to the US Department of Justice below:

The Honorable Merrick B. Garland
Attorney General
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Garland:

I am writing to ask you to authorize the publication of additional information on the Hemisphere project. This is a long-running surveillance program in which the White House pays AT&T to provide all federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies with the ability to request searches, often without a warrant. , on billions of national telephone records.

In 2013, the New York Times revealed the existence of a surveillance program in which the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) pays AT&T to extract customer records for the benefit of the forces. federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement. agencies. According to an ONDCP slideshow, AT&T has retained and interrogated call recordings dating back to 1987 as part of Project Hemisphere, with 4 billion new recordings added every day. This slideshow was apparently leaked by a local law enforcement agency in response to a public request for information and was published by The New York Times in 2013.

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