AT&T earns millions selling call data to law enforcement without court order

AT&T earns millions selling call data to law enforcement without court order
When it comes to call info sweeps, nothing beats the NSA, one might think, but they would be wrong. Back in 2013, the New York Times discovered that the DEA - you know, the department in charge of the "war on drugs" - appears to have logged billions of AT&T call records, in fact a 26-year amount, and counting. Dubbed Project Hemisphere, the undertaking lifted off in 2007, and has apparently never looked back.

We are talking here about actual AT&T personnel sitting in DEA's offices, helping with the data collection and assisting with, say, tracking those "burner" phones drug dealers use, says the Sunday Times. The report was based on a 27-slide PowerPoint presentation by the DEA, meant for law enforcement officials. The government is apparently chipping in for the expenses connected with all that snooping that goes back to phone records from 1987, and includes every call that has ever passed through the AT&T network, including from other carriers.

Fast forward to today, and, what was dismissed at the time as an "essential" and "prudently-deployed counter-narcotics tool" seems to be a much wider dragnet than the general public gives it credit for. A document, obtained by the Daily Beast, shows that AT&T can provide a lead through Hemisphere, and law enforcement can go ahead even without a warrant based on that lead, creating what is called "parallel construction" afterwards, like obtaining a court order on a wiretap or to follow someone. You know, all the stuff that you saw in The Wire, but instead of slaving over having to wake a judge at 3am, the cops can now issue a simple subpoena without the need to construct a probable cause, or exhaust all other avenues.

This is a pretty dangerous precedent, and AT&T has the incentive to keep the scheme going. After all, municipalities are paying well for using Hemisphere, from $100 thousand to more than a million a year, so why ruin a good thing with extra privacy precautions. The money then get reimbursed through that same police militarization program that supplies Iraq insurgency level equipment to local police departments, so ultimately it's the taxpayer covering the costs on their own court order-less snooping.

The AT&T statement on the matter is pretty boilerplate: "Like other communications companies, if a government agency seeks customer call records through a subpoena, court order or other mandatory legal process, we are required by law to provide this non-content information, such as the phone numbers and the date and time of calls." 

According to ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian, however, the issue is that "оnce a company creates a huge surveillance apparatus like this and provides it to law enforcement, they then have to provide it whenever the government asks. They’ve developed this massive program and of course they’re going to sell it to as many people as possible." There you have it.

source: Daily Beast



1. Carl3000

Posts: 240; Member since: Oct 11, 2014

lol can't believe they have photos from the Wire. On a more serious note though, f!*% AT&T.

22. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

ATT is expert when it comes to hire lobbyists No surprise the outcome, even court can't stop them

2. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

I would never use AT&T

11. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

If you don't think they all do it at some point you better not use anyone then.

14. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

They don't all do it. At least not like this.

18. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

And AT&T is also bringing down its GSM Network by the end of this year... That's ridiculous... Bringing down The 3G Band makes a TON of sense considering most (if not all) phones are now coming with 4G LTE Modems... But GSM...??? Heck, even Vodafone here in Australia is shutting down GSM... And so is ALL Singaporean Carriers... At least Europeans aren't that silly... They'll shut down 3G by 2020 and GSM might live till 2025...

24. andynaija

Posts: 1264; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

A great way to summarize your comment is just confusion.

3. CRodCLib

Posts: 10; Member since: Oct 19, 2016

Ironically the government yet again proves how it is nothing less than a crime syndicate. The soft tyranny marches on.

19. raywonder

Posts: 30; Member since: Apr 11, 2016


23. lyndon420

Posts: 6883; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Well said. The government is never held accountable for what they do.

4. phonehome

Posts: 812; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

Hillary Clinton will make an unsolicited announcement condemning this. And the Galaxy Note 7 is safe as a cotton ball.

9. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

And what did this article have to do with either.

17. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

He's a delusional Trumpet... Leave him be... G'Dday!

5. CRodCLib

Posts: 10; Member since: Oct 19, 2016

And what is achieved through such illegal methods?? Trillions spent and it's still easier to get drugs than alcohol/cigarettes...war zones in all major cities and along the Mexican border. The effort is simply a jobs program for law enforcement serving the irrational fears of the sheeple.

6. Acdc1a

Posts: 477; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Where's Jeter on this one?

7. Ankit_27

Posts: 25; Member since: Feb 20, 2016

People put in power for protection of the people abusing their power. Misguided ideals. Compromising humanity to reach goals will always create a paradox. You might achieve your goal but life will balance it out by creating equivalent problems. That's why the society is still suffering. Learn to use your brain, resorting to sacrifice humanity so effortlessly is bad. Just my opinion.

8. lilleonso

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 13, 2016

I feel violated. Lol

10. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Just hide your drugs you will be ok, lol

13. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

You don't need to hide them. Just be smart and don't conduct business on a phone. Its that simple.

15. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015


12. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

This is what happens with GSM carriers. Verizon doesn't have this problem. That's the only good thing about VZW, they aren't in the Gov't pocket like ATT. ATT has been kissing up with the Gov't since, the Gov't forced them to breakup into smaller Bell companies, that they for the most part, ended up just buying back. Yet with all this free money, ATT charges the most outrageous prices on phones and services. I would NEVER be an ATT customer...NEVER!

16. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I have no problem with att. Been with them one way or another for like 15 years. I know they are not the cheapest but they work the best for me. I know people with Tmobile and Verizon and they don't get the service I do.

20. raywonder

Posts: 30; Member since: Apr 11, 2016

I think Verizon is the best in the US followed closely by AT&T. Just my opinion.

21. Droid773

Posts: 49; Member since: Dec 22, 2012

I don't think Verizon is the best. I live in Chicago 10 minutes from Downtown and theres like 5 places where Internet doesn't work. Att and Sprint are the best for me.

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