In fact, according to a law-enforcement presentation first obtained by The New York Times, drug-prohibition enforcers at all levels of government have been working with AT&T since at least 2007 in a much more extensive espionage scandal that is attracting furious criticism from across the political spectrum.
Among the most shocking elements of the scheme, officially dubbed the “Hemisphere Project,” is the fact that Homeland Security bureaucrats, drug warriors at the DEA, and other agencies are simply writing their own “warrants” to spy on Americans. Instead of obeying the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and obtaining a proper warrant — traditionally from a judge or a grand jury — to obtain the phone records, federal agencies, often collaborating with local officials, simply produce what is called an “administrative subpoena.”
Once a federal bureaucrat produces such a document, AT&T employees paid by taxpayers and "embedded" with law enforcement grant the government access to a massive database of phone records stretching back almost three decades. Also, it is not just records of AT&T customers. According to the slide show about the program, stamped with the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, every call that goes through an AT&T switch is logged by the company for future access by officials. Some four billion records are added every day, the presentation shows.
The massive trove of information goes far beyond even what the NSA is publicly known to be collecting, according to the Times. It is also used for a wide variety of purposes way broader than enforcing unconstitutional federal drug-prohibition statutes. Moreover, the presentation shows that bureaucrats involved in the program are instructed to never mention it in official documents, apparently an effort to conceal its existence from the public, defendants, and even judges.
Similar to another recent scandal that hit the headlines last month, agents involved in cases built using the Hemisphere Project are also told to seek out the allegedly incriminating data from other sources to hide and “protect” their dubious investigative tactics. Experts say the brazen cover-ups involving the spying schemes pose serious questions about the legality and constitutionality of the programs — and even the right to a fair trial for defendants ensnared in the shadowy surveillance.
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