In the midst of the angst of the debate over Obama bombing Syria, a front page article in Monday’s New York Times has revealed a new surveillance scandal involving a little known deal between the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and AT&T called the Hemisphere Project. That deal gives the DEA access to 26 years of its phone records:
Unlike the controversial call record accesses obtained by the NSA, the data is stored by AT&T, not the government, but officials can access individual’s phone records within an hour of an administrative subpoena.
AT&T receives payment from the government in order to sit its employees alongside drug units to aid with access to the data.
The AT&T database includes every phone call which passes through the carrier’s infrastructure, not just those made by AT&T customers.
Details of the program – which was marked as law enforcement sensitive, but not classified – were released in a series of slides to an activist, Drew Hendricks, in response to freedom of information requests, and then passed to reporters at the New York Times.
Officials were instructed to take elaborate steps to ensure the secrecy of the Hemisphere program, a task described as a “formidable challenge” in the slide deck, which detailed the steps agencies had taken to “try and keep the program under the radar”.
The transcript for this segment was not available at this time.