DEA Has Access to Billions of AT&T Phone Call Records

DEA Has Access to Billions of AT&T Phone Call Records: The United States Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) efforts to stay ahead of drug dealers has, according to a New York Times report, helped launch one of the most unusual and wide-ranging phone-record access programs seen yet.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, the Hemisphere Program was launched in 2007 and with it, the DEA gains access to 26-years’ worth of phone records that include every single number passing through the AT&T network, including numbers from other carriers and call locations. Not only do the records have billions of data points, the Times story notes that billions more are added every day. The scale and scope of the project could be larger than the NSA’s phone call logging efforts.

Those records remain in AT&T’s control, but in one of the more unusual twists, trained AT&T employees sit alongside DEA agents (at DEA offices) to help facilitate access to the phone records upon request. The request and records can be useful in the DEA’s efforts to track down drug traffickers who often use hard-to-trace “burner” cellphones.

The DEA’s efforts to monitor various networks and slow the drug trade is nothing new. Plus, on the technology front, its efforts are not always successful. Earlier this year, documents revealed it could not tap into Apple’s iMessage network.

Much of the New York Times’ details on Hemisphere come from a 27-slide PowerPoint presentation it obtained from peace activist Drew Hendricks. According to the report, “He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked ‘Law enforcement sensitive,’ in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.”