Home » Privacy Under Siege: Trillions of Phone Records Accessed in Secret White House Program

Privacy Under Siege: Trillions of Phone Records Accessed in Secret White House Program

by Richard A Reagan

A Wired investigation has uncovered a White House-managed surveillance program, Data Analytical Services (DAS), that grants law enforcement agencies across federal, state, and local levels access to trillions of American phone records.

This program, which collaborates closely with telecom giant AT&T, significantly raises concerns about privacy and legal overreach.

Program Overview

DAS, formerly known as Hemisphere, has been tracking over a trillion domestic phone records annually for more than a decade. Unlike traditional wiretapping, which requires a warrant, DAS employs a technique called chain analysis, extensively scrutinizing direct and indirect social networks of individuals, including those not suspected of any criminal activity. This method greatly expands the scope of surveillance, enveloping a broad network of people, including innocents. [Source]

Funding and Oversight

The program has received substantial funding from the White House, exceeding $6 million since 2013. Interestingly, funding for DAS has fluctuated with presidential administrations. Under former President Obama, funding was reportedly suspended in 2013 following public exposure. It resumed under President Trump but was briefly halted in 2021. Current President Biden’s administration has once again resumed funding for the program.

Legal and Ethical Concerns

The DAS program operates without judicial oversight or public accountability, a fact that clashes with the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Senator Ron Wyden expressed deep concerns, stating in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, “Troubling information […] would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress.” [Source]

AT&T’s Role

AT&T has voluntarily cooperated with the government, storing detailed call records including names, phone numbers, dates, times, and locations of calls. While AT&T claims compliance with lawful subpoenas, no law mandates the storage of such vast amounts of data for law enforcement purposes. This voluntary cooperation raises further questions about the boundaries between private corporations and government surveillance.

Public Reaction and Future Implications

The exposure of the DAS program has triggered a wave of concern among privacy advocates and the general public. The program’s lack of transparency and the potential for abuse highlight the delicate balance between national security needs and the civil liberties of citizens. As the nation grapples with these revelations, the future of DAS and similar surveillance initiatives remains a contentious topic, one that will undoubtedly spark intense debate and scrutiny in the days to come.

The revelation of the White House’s extensive surveillance program through DAS, in partnership with AT&T, opens a Pandora’s box of ethical, legal, and privacy concerns. Do you think that the government violated your rights to privacy?

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