Picture this: every time you make a phone call, someone is keeping an incredibly detailed record of the conversation. They’re monitoring whom you’re talking to, when, where, and for how long.
And they don’t stop there… They also monitor the calls of the people you talk to, the people they talk to, and so on. This is a reality for millions of Americans using AT&T’s phone network.
As per a letter obtained by WIRED, a little-known surveillance program called as Data Analytical Services (DAS) has been covertly gathering and analyzing over a trillion domestic phone records within the U.S. annually.
The program, previously known as Hemisphere, is operated by the telecom giant AT&T in collaboration with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
The program uses a technique known as chain analysis, which targets not only those in direct phone contact with a criminal suspect but anyone with whom those individuals have been in contact as well.
This means that innocent people who have no connection to any crime can have their phone records swept up and scrutinized by the authorities.
The program enables law enforcement agencies to access the records of any calls utilizing AT&T’s infrastructure, which spans a significant part of the country.
These records encompass phone numbers, dates, times, durations, and locations of the calls, along with the names and addresses of the subscribers.
This program raises serious concerns about the privacy and civil liberties of millions of Americans.
It operates without any judicial oversight or public accountability and violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The program also contradicts the spirit of the USA Freedom Act, which was passed in 2015 to reform the bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The act required the NSA to stop collecting phone records in bulk and instead request them from the phone companies on a case-by-case basis with a court order. However, the DAS program bypasses this requirement by allowing AT&T to collect and store the records for law enforcement purposes.
The program is also not widely known or understood by the public or the media. It has reportedly been operating for more than a decade, and it has received more than $6 million from the White House.
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