DEA accesses Americans’ phone records dating back to …

posted at 4:01 pm on September 2, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Where were you in 1987?  Gary Hart had to bail out of the 1988 presidential race after photos surfaced of Donna Rice sitting on his lap.  Oliver North admitted to shredding documents in the Iran-Contra scandal.  The Dow dropped 508 points and shocked Wall Street. On television, Star Trek: The Next Generation started its seven-season run, and A Different World spun off from The Cosby Show for the first of its six seasons.

And, if you made a call that went through AT&T switches, you contributed to the DEA’s phone-records search capabilities at its start, too:

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987. …

The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.

This is akin to the NSA surveillance, but there is one crucial difference — and it really is the crucial difference.  The DEA is not collecting and storing the data on its own, but is instead searching the databases maintained by AT&T.  Those searches only get conducted, at least according to the NYT’s reporting, when investigators acquire an administrative subpoena for specific surveillance.  This was the point that was left unclear in the revelation last month of DEA surveillance and manufacturing of evidence trails.

Now, this still raises more than a few real questions, especially the use of administrative subpoenas, which are issued without any judicial oversight.  It essentially means that a federal agency has reviewed its own surveillance request and approved it, which doesn’t provide a lot of checks against abuses.  (Put on top of that the Department of Justice investigating its own subordinate agency, the DEA, in this practice.)  However, this isn’t quite the same thing as the NSA’s active capture of communications records from most if not all Americans over several years.  In this case, the telecom (AT&T) has held onto its records, and at least requires some sort of subpoena before granting access to the data.

When this was proposed as a means for the NSA to conduct their surveillance — seeking the subpoena first and requiring telecoms to hold the data — the intelligence community scoffed at the notion, saying it was impractical for telecoms and for rapid investigations.  The DEA and AT&T seem to think otherwise.  What other telecoms are cooperating with the DEA in this endeavor? And why isn’t the NSA operating in this manner, rather than defaulting to building its own massive databases of citizen transactions without any probable cause for 99.999% of those whose records are collected?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4

Neither Doocy nor Kilmeade can get a coherent sentence out of their mouths. Tucker Carlson is a big improvement, but I love when Eric Bolling sits in.

Naturally Curly on September 3, 2013 at 7:37 AM

It’s just morning news programming. People don’t want to get up first thing in the morning and turn on the television to long discussions about bombing Syria or raising the debt ceiling. There is a place for the fluff of Fox and Friends. Unless you want them to turn into Morning Joe and just have a bunch of hack “journalists” spewing Op-Ed comments.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:43 AM

Has Congress been shown the evidence? Is it a “slam dunk”?

bluegill on September 3, 2013 at 6:55 AM

About 80 members of congress got a look at the second third and fourth hand material Kerry is laughingly calling evidence.

If we have any first hand US collected evidence, I have yet to hear it. And still, Assad has not attacked any US interest.

The rebels have WMDs. They have means motive and opportunity.

dogsoldier on September 3, 2013 at 7:44 AM

I should have used the sarc tag HN. They know and they’re mostly MIA.

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 7:42 AM

I guess you should have! I’m pretty good at detecting sarc but your post was a leaker.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:45 AM

Why is it that using sarin gas is a crime against humanity but burning churches to the ground and beheading Christians is no big deal?

Naturally Curly on September 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM

If we have any first hand US collected evidence, I have yet to hear it. And still, Assad has not attacked any US interest.

The rebels have WMDs. They have means motive and opportunity.

dogsoldier on September 3, 2013 at 7:44 AM

I’m okay with the UN collected evidence as far as it goes. Sarin gas was used. But as Chris Wallace pointed out- this isn’t CSI. There is no smoking gun that definitively pins the use of sarin gas on the Assad regime.

And, frankly, I wish some evidence would emerge pointing back to the stuff we know was leaving Iraq as coalition forces were massing for invasion.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Ted’s Gulch is open for business and under new management. All are welcome!

bluegill on September 3, 2013 at 4:57 AM

…except… b!tches!

KOOLAID2 on September 3, 2013 at 7:55 AM

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:45 AM

A leaker?

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 7:55 AM

Why is it that using sarin gas is a crime against humanity but burning churches to the ground and beheading Christians is no big deal?

Naturally Curly on September 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Because one year ago, our lazy stupid President did not make a speech talking about red lines if churches were being burned and Christians beheaded. There is no rational reason why the United States would interevene in this incident (the third gas attack in Syria) but would completely ignore Darfur or Rwanda or any of a host of atrocities around the world.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Just spotted this. Priorities people!

President Obama will meet with several LGBT groups during his trip later this week to St. Petersburg, a move likely to ruffle Russian President Vladimir Putin after the recent passage of a series of anti-gay laws.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/319899-report-obama-to-meet-lgbt-activists-in-russia

dogsoldier on September 3, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:45 AM

A leaker?

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 7:55 AM

As in the missile that gets through one’s AAW defenses.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:57 AM

As in the missile that gets through one’s AAW defenses.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Ah.

The liberal commenters here are cowards. Their absence clearly defines their inability to defend this administrations actions. If they had any real moral courage, they’d be here protesting obama’s desire to go to war with Syria at the very least.

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 8:00 AM

President Obama will meet with several LGBT groups during his trip later this week to St. Petersburg, a move likely to ruffle Russian President Vladimir Putin after the recent passage of a series of anti-gay laws.

dogsoldier on September 3, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Enjoying that flexibility now that the election has been stolen. It is as if our thin-skinned rat of a President is going out of his way to provoke Russia. And Putin clearly despises our rat-eared coward as much as many Americans.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 8:01 AM

dogsoldier on September 3, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Oooh, that’ll one up Putin after the embarrassing showing in the Syrian conflict obama’s displaying.

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 8:02 AM

The liberal commenters here are cowards. Their absence clearly defines their inability to defend this administrations actions. If they had any real moral courage, they’d be here protesting obama’s desire to go to war with Syria at the very least.

hawkdriver on September 3, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Exactly. They go into silent mode when the administration does the indefensible but are in full-throttled outrage when they think they’ve got a partisan edge. The very epitome of fair weather patriots.

Happy Nomad on September 3, 2013 at 8:05 AM

I hear sheep in the background.

Good night.

Politricks on September 3, 2013 at 2:09 AM

No surprise there.

Bmore on September 3, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Why is it that using sarin gas is a crime against humanity but burning churches to the ground and beheading Christians is no big deal?

Naturally Curly on September 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Because shut up thats why.

BobMbx on September 3, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Yes, see Ronald Reagan himself.

But, the schadenfreude toward those who brung/kept such skunks will linger…for at least 3 more years and beyond. The consequences are too dire.

I am a ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ type…I don’t care about a person’s past mistakes, as long as they are learning from them. If someone wishes he could take back his vote for 0dumba non-wishy-washily, that’s good enough for me!

Yes. I’ve never understood how any C could ever vote for any leftard scum. I’d rather they switch party. It’s like shooting yourself in the brain, but not all the way.

In anticipation of your “what about the Reagan D voters?”…I’d rather they switch parties too. I have more respect for Kucinich than I do for McCain.

Schadenfreude on September 3, 2013 at 2:05 AM

It looks like we may be talking past each other a bit. I mainly have been thinking about people who have moved rightward in their political lives, not those who are only (temporarily) disgruntled Repubs or Dems.

Anti-Control on September 3, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Some days you pound your head against the wall so many times eventually a gem pops out.

John the Libertarian on September 3, 2013 at 12:43 AM

I think I need to wear my readers.

Saw this as: Some days you pound your head against the wall so many times eventually GUM pops out.

Meh. Maybe, I continue to forget to wear my glasses and just enjoy the nonsense that I misread, lol.

*Wanted to post just in case everyone gets kicked out for going off topic. I’d rather go down with the ship with all of you than have survivor guilt.

Fallon on September 3, 2013 at 2:06 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3 4