The latest insanity of the 'security state' has been revealed, thanks to the efforts of an activist who used the resources of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain details. The Guardian reports:
US law enforcement officers working on anti-drugs operations have had access to a vast database of call records dating back to 1987, supplied by the phone company AT&T, the New York Times has revealed.
The project, known as Hemisphere, gives federal and local officers working on drug cases access to a database of phone metadata populated by more than four billion new call records each day.
Unlike the controversial call record accesses obtained by the NSA, the data is stored by AT&T, not the government, but officials can access individual's phone records within an hour of an administrative subpoena.
AT&T receives payment from the government in order to sit its employees alongside drug units to aid with access to the data.
The AT&T database includes every phone call which passes through the carrier's infrastructure, not just those made by AT&T customers.
Details of the program – which was marked as law enforcement sensitive, but not classified – were released in a series of slides to an activist, Drew Hendricks, in response to freedom of information requests, and then passed to reporters at the New York Times.
. . .
Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU told the Times the program raised "profound privacy concerns".
"I'd speculate that one reason for the secrecy of the program is that it would be very hard to justify it to the public or the courts," he said.
There's more at the link. There's also an in-depth report in the New York Times.
A couple of points:
- Why the hell would AT&T retain everyone's phone records for the past 25 years? There's no possible commercial reason to do so. This can only be the result of Government requests - but when were those requests made? How old is this program? It may predate 9/11 by a significant period. Our security establishment may have been overstepping their bounds for far longer than we first thought.
- I note from the New York Times report that the ACLU spokesman said that "the integration of government agents into the process means there are serious Fourth Amendment concerns". No s**t, Sherlock!
Karl Denninger observes trenchantly:
So the government knows damn well that paying for this program (that is, paying AT&T) is equivalent to seizing the records and the only real way to prevent court review of the constitutionality of this (it's blatantly NOT, incidentally) is to hide the very existence of the program.
The cute part is that doing that requires active perjury in each and every case where said "evidence" is later used, because one must lay the foundation for how the law enforcement agency came to acquire the knowledge necessary to bring the charges and convict.
In short such a program and the secrecy surrounding it means that government agents and agencies have committed black-letter perjury in thousands if not tens of thousands of cases -- in fact, in each and every case where this sort of "evidence" has been used.
Perjury, in most cases, is a felony.
Again, more at the link.
The conscienceless bastards who are flaunting their invulnerability to the constitution and laws of the United States by initiating, perpetrating and continuing programs such as these, have no place in a law-abiding society. This country is popularly supposed to put individual rights and freedoms ahead of the interests of the State. That's no longer even remotely the case. Furthermore, both major political parties are too invested in the 'system' to be willing to 'rock the boat' - so the only way I can see to change things is to elect 'insurgent candidates' who will defy their party's hierarchy and vote their conscience. Unfortunately, there are precious few such individuals out there . . .
To call such programs statist or totalitarian is no more than stating the obvious. We have to eradicate, not just the programs, but their adherents and supporters from the bureaucracy of the State that implements them. Unless and until we do, our freedom will be largely a dead letter.