(USNewsMag.com) – A secret White House surveillance program allows law enforcement agencies extensive access to the phone records of trillions of Americans.
For over a decade, the Data Analytical Services (DAS) program has been working in partnership with AT&T to provide law enforcement agencies at all levels of government with a comprehensive analysis of Americans’ phone records. While the deal involves the direct phone contacts of criminal suspects, it also includes access to their social media networks. This means individuals not suspected of being involved in criminal activity are also being spied on by the program.
The program, previously referred to as Hemisphere, uses a technique known as chain analysis. The technique does not limit itself to the direct contacts of the individual but instead includes the connections of those individuals, which expands its reach to a larger network of people. The program allows the records of any calls that use AT&T’s infrastructure to be targeted. DAS then relies on the records of AT&T for information such as names of recipients and callers, phone numbers, and the times and dates of calls. The records do not include conversations. It is not considered to be wiretapping, which requires a warrant.
Recent leaks and public records requests show that DAS has been used extensively in various law enforcement contexts. The White House has given the program over $6 million in funding, according to records obtained by Wired.
On Nov. 26, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden challenged the program’s legality in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. In his letter, Wyden stated that the “troubling information” he received from the Department of Justice about the program “would justifiably” cause outrage for many Americans and “other members of Congress.” The letter said the program allows for “warrantless searches” of Americans’ phone records. Wyden stated that the program is not classified. The letter requested that the Department of Justice publish information about the program for public transparency.
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