For at least six years, the DEA and local government agencies have used subpoenas to routinely gain access to an enormous AT&T database.
This partnership between federal and local drug officials, and AT&T, is called the "Hemisphere Project," noted The New York Times.
The New York Times found out about the Hemisphere Project after it received official slides describing the Hemisphere Project from peace activist Drew Hendricks.
Hendricks was sent the unclassified PowerPoint presentation in response to some public information requests to police agencies.
One of the slides stated: “All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document.”
This database far overshadows the NSA’s collection of phone calls revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks.
Unlike the NSA's data, the Hemisphere Project data includes information about the location of people making phone calls.
As part of the secret project, the U.S. government has been paying AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country, The New York Times reports.
The partnership between the DEA and AT&T goes back as far as 1987.
AT&T employees sit side-by-side with DEA agents and supply phone data.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon says the Justice Department has requested phone numbers using “administrative subpoenas,” which are not issued not by a grand jury or a judge, but by the DEA, which is under the authority of the Justice Department.
AT&T spokesman, Mark A. Siegel, stated that AT&T “like all other companies, must respond to valid subpoenas issued by law enforcement,” but did not address how or why AT&T employees work side-by-side with DEA agents. Nor did he state why AT&T hasn't made this information or subpoenas public.
Source: The New York Times