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Investigation reveals AT&T and US government have been spying on millions of Americans for years

Documents reveal a secret surveillance program has been mining the call data of US citizens for more than a decade.
By
November 26, 2023
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Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Documents reviewed by Wired have revealed details of a secret call surveillance program run by the US government with the help of AT&T.
  • Millions of Americans have been spied on by law enforcement without their knowledge and without good cause.
  • AT&T has reportedly been storing and sharing call records of its subscribers with authorities for over a decade.

Big Brother is Watching you. George Orwell’s words from the dystopian novel 1984 ring uncomfortably true after reading this recent investigative report published by Wired. The outlet has analyzed leaked police documents, a White House memo, and a letter sent by US Senator Ron Wyden to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to verify the existence of a secret government surveillance program run by the US government and executed by telecom carrier AT&T.

According to details of the investigation, federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities have been surveilling millions of US citizens for over a decade under a clandestine and non-descript program called Data Analytical Services (DAS). This program reportedly not only tracks call records of criminals but also their families, friends of their families, and countless other people who are not suspected of any criminal activity.

Formerly known as Hemisphere, the DAS program captures call data with the help of AT&T, the largest US telecom carrier by subscriber base. A White House memo reviewed by Wired shows that the President’s office has provided the program with over $6 million to record any calls made using AT&T’s infrastructure.

Kim Hart, a spokesperson for AT,&T refused Wired’s request for comment on the DAS program and said that the company is required to comply with legal requests from law enforcement agencies. However, there is no law that allows the carrier to store years’ worth of call data of Americans to aid law enforcement.

“While DAS is managed under a program devoted to drug trafficking, a leaked file from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) shows that local police agencies, such as those in Daly City and Oakland, requested DAS data for unsolved cases seemingly unrelated to drugs,” reports the publication.

The report also quotes instances where the police requested DAS data to identify suspects as well as victims by spying on their close friends. Law enforcement documents further reveal the wide scope of the DAS program and how officials from the US Postal Service inspector to a New York Department of Corrections parole officer have received DAS training.

The funding for the DAS program was reportedly suspended in 2013 under former President Obama’s tenure and after The New York Times first disclosed details of the Hemisphere program. However, the funding was resumed under Donald Trump before being halted again in 2021. The White House memo obtained by Wired shows that the financing of AT&T’s data mining program has once again resumed under President Joe Biden.

Wired has published a long-winded report about how exactly the DAS program works. You can read the full article in the link mentioned at the beginning of this article.