A secretive surveillance initiative, managed by the White House, grants law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to trillions of American phone records, raising significant privacy and legal concerns.
A Wired investigation has revealed a secret White House surveillance program that permits federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to access an extensive array of U.S. phone records. Known as Data Analytical Services (DAS), this program functions in partnership with telecom giant AT&T, offering a comprehensive analysis of American call records to law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. This deal not only involves direct phone contacts of criminal suspects but extends to their social networks as well, snooping on individuals who have not been suspected of any criminal activity at all.
For over a decade, DAS has been tracking more than a trillion domestic phone records annually. The program, previously referred to as Hemisphere, has evolved to use a technique called chain analysis. This method doesn’t limit itself to direct contacts of suspects; it also scrutinizes connections of those individuals, expanding its reach to a broader network of people, including innocent bystanders.
The program’s methodology significantly differs from traditional wiretapping, which requires a warrant based on probable cause. DAS instead relies on AT&T’s records, which include details like the names of callers and recipients, phone numbers, and the dates and times of calls. Interestingly, AT&T is not mandated by law to store these records for extended periods, yet it does so, highlighting a voluntary cooperation that benefits law enforcement.
The scale of DAS is enormous, encompassing records that crisscross the entire United States through AT&T’s infrastructure. Despite the vastness of its operation, the program has largely flown under the radar, with minimal public awareness until recently. This secrecy is compounded by the fact that the White House, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, oversees the program, further reducing public visibility into its workings.
Recent leaks and public records have revealed the extensive use of DAS in various law enforcement contexts. These include requests for “Hemisphere analysis” to identify suspects through their social connections, further underscoring the program’s expansive scope. The leaked files also show a range of officials, from postal inspectors to parole officers, participating in DAS training sessions, indicating its widespread adoption across different law enforcement branches.
Read more at Wired here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.