When it comes to records of personal phone calls, most people come down the side of privacy of records and authorities needing to provide clear justification that records are required for any investigation. A new report has surfaced that claims since at least 2007, DEA agents and local police authorities have had access to a gigantic database of phone records provided by AT&T. Reports indicate that database has records of every American phone call that has passed through an AT&T switch in the last 26 years.
The massive database is provided under a program called the Hemisphere Project. In addition to providing the massive database of phone records, the project also reportedly pays AT&T employees to work alongside DEA officers in three states. The Hemisphere Project database reportedly goes all the way back to 1987 and includes data such as users phone numbers, time and duration of calls, and location.
About 4 billion new calls are allegedly added to the database each day. The legality of the Hemisphere Project is murky when you consider the Patriot Act allows the NSA to only store five years worth of call information and the information can only include phone numbers along with the time and duration of calls.
Some of first evidence that the Hemisphere Project existed was reportedly offered to the New York Times by an activist named Drew Hendricks in the form of a training PowerPoint presentation marked as law enforcement sensitive, but not classified. The program has reportedly been operated in secrecy for years. The Justice Department has defended the Hemisphere Project by issued a statement.
Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that “subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations.”
Mr. Fallon said that “the records are maintained at all times by the phone company, not the government,” and that Hemisphere “simply streamlines the process of serving the subpoena to the phone company so law enforcement can quickly keep up with drug dealers when they switch phone numbers to try to avoid detection.”