The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. —4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The phone company has been aiding and abetting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency carry in spying on you and your neighbors by providing access to its massive database. The database contains 26 years’ worth of data and tracks 4 billion calls a day, records show. As first reported by the New York Times, the program was started in 2007 and continues to be carried out in total secrecy.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
Notice that unlike the NSA program, this one has no excuse. It has nothing to do with protecting the country from terrorist attacks but is a law enforcement effort to maintain access to every telephone communication ever made by anyone.
Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Hemisphere “simply streamlines the process of serving the subpoena to the phone company so law enforcement can quickly keep up with drug dealers when they switch phone numbers to try to avoid detection”:
“Subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations,” he added, stressing that “records are maintained at all times by the phone company, not the government.”
Apparently the people executing the program don’t want it mentioned, as this PowerPoint slide obtained by the New York Times indicates:
The report about the previously undisclosed program came after an activist in Washington state received training slides on the operation from public information requests to unidentified West Coast police agencies.
The information was marked “law enforcement sensitive” but was not classified. The slides contained the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Times reported.
A spokesman for AT&T said in a release, “We, like all other companies, must respond to valid subpoenas issued by law enforcement.”
And Americans should react to this violation of the Fourth Amendment carried out by our federal government.