U.S. drug agents using vast AT&T database, New York Times says

Mon Sep 2, 2013 9:25pm EDT

An At&T logo is seen atop a store in Beverly Hills, California August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

An At&T logo is seen atop a store in Beverly Hills, California August 31, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

Related Topics

(Reuters) - U.S. law enforcement officials investigating drug crimes have had access, using subpoenas, to a large AT&T Inc database that contains the records of phone calls dating back to 1987, according to a New York Times report.

The report, published on Sunday, said under the 6-year-old program, the government pays telecommunications giant AT&T to place employees in drug-fighting units around the country. The employees sit with Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data, it said.

The "Hemisphere Project" covers call data for any carrier that uses an AT&T switch, the newspaper reported, citing training slides with the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Federal authorities told the newspaper that the project, which has been useful in finding criminals who frequently discard cellphones to avoid detection, used investigative techniques that have been employed in criminal cases for decades and created no new privacy issues.

A representative for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, said on Monday that while the company cannot comment on any particular matter, "we, like all other companies, must respond to valid subpoenas issued by law enforcement."

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alex Abdo said on Monday the program is "very troubling from a privacy perspective."

"The government has easy access to decades' worth of information on millions of Americans," said Abdo, who is with the ACLU's national security project.

Reuters reported last month that the National Security Agency supplies the DEA with intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.

Reuters cited internal documents that show how DEA's Special Operations Division funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and John Shiffman; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (16)
josobo wrote:
Whoever made the decision for US law enforcement to go after individual citizens to combat the drug trade instead of shutting down the money trail to the world’s banks made a bad decision. Think about it. Stop the flow of drug money, production backs up and supply becomes so large it becomes useless to produce. Instead, the drug war has pitted US law enforcement against law abiding citizens. Isn’t that what’s happening with the massive infringement of citizens rights?

Sep 02, 2013 10:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
zflynn3 wrote:
Regarding subjects of hysteria, America has many this one is the anti-drug hysteria, everyone is suspect and virtually anyone can be found guilty by vague association.

Who knew 1984 came this late and lasts so long?

Sep 02, 2013 11:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Time to end the drug prohibition. If any adult wants to use drugs, it’s no one else’s business.

Sep 02, 2013 12:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.