For at least the past 10 years, the federal government has been running a secret spying and surveillance program that allows law enforcement across the country to access domestic phone records at will.
The program, known as Data Analytical Services (DAS), has for more than a decade allowed federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to mine details about the calls Americans make, including analyzing the specific phone records of people who are not suspected of any crime, including victims.
We learned about this secret spying program from a letter that was recently sent by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to the Department of Justice (DOJ) challenging its legality. DAS is especially concerning because it utilizes a technique called chain analysis that targets not just people who directly call a criminal suspect but also others with whom these same people may have been in contact.
Formerly known as Hemisphere, DAS operates in coordination with telecommunications giant ATT, which captures and analyzes U.S. call records on behalf of the nation’s law enforcement agencies, according to a White House memo.
The White House has reportedly contributed more than $6 million to the program, which in essence allows the government to target the records of all calls that use ATT’s infrastructure, described by WIRED as “a maze of routers and switches that crisscross the United States.”
(Related: During the COVID “pandemic,” we reported that virtually all of the government’s information websites were secret spying operations.)
Sen. Wyden expresses “serious concerns about the legality” of DAS program
In his letter, which was directed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Sen. Wyden wrote that he has “serious concerns about the legality” of the DAS program, citing “troubling information” he received about it that “would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress.”
Sen. Wyden expressed that the DOJ confidentially provided this information to him, which he describes as “sensitive but unclassified,” meaning he is forbidden from disclosing it to the public even though it poses no risk to “national security” as defined by the deep state.
ATT makes a lot of money from its participation in DAS. The company voluntarily collects and stores many years’ worth of call records on Americans for law enforcement purposes. In some cases, this data has been stolen – the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets published a report in 2020 citing “hundreds of gigabytes” of stolen phone records from the program.
Evidence collected from DAS and reviewed by WIRED shows that there are a variety of processes and justifications that law enforcement agencies utilize to continue monitoring the call records of not only criminal suspects but also their families and friends.
While DAS is technically managed under a program devoted to drug trafficking, a leaked file from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) shows that local police agencies are abusing it for cases that are seemingly unrelated to drugs.
The New York Times was the first to report on Hemisphere, as it was then called, in September 2013, the same year it was also renamed as DAS. Since that time, the program has largely flown under the radar with few Americans or really anyone knowing it even exists.
The Times obtained internal records at that time showing that law enforcement agencies who use the program are never to make mention of it in any official document. In other words, DAS is intentionally operated in secrecy.
The data collected through DAS does not include the actual conversations of calls, but rather a range of identifying information about them including caller and recipient names, phone numbers, and dates and times of calls.
The latest news about government spying operations can be found at Surveillance.news.
Sources for this article include:
Source material can be found at this site.