US Government Says AT&T Gives Them Access to Billions of Phone Records

A mass surveillance program that allows government agents to obtain billions of call records from AT&T is “still active,” according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) report published Thursday. The program of data sharing, named in the report only as Project C is known internally as “Hemisphere.”

Details of Hemisphere came out in 2013 thanks to Drew Hendricks, an activist who obtained a Hemisphere PowerPoint presentation through a Public Records Act Request. According to the document, the program began in September of 2007 and is used by the DEA, DHS and FBI, and other agencies. Training material from the Los Angeles Hemisphere branch refers to a policy of secrecy around the project, “All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document. If there is no alternative to referencing a Hemisphere request, then the results should be referenced as information obtained from an AT&T subpoena.”

According to the DoJ report, AT&T “maintains and analyzes” its own collection of phone record data and allows several law enforcement agencies to have access to their own bulk data collection. The AT&T-run program collects information on every call that passes through its system. The database contains call records dating back at least three decades.

Hemisphere reportedly collects even more phone records than the NSA’s program.



Image adapted from: “DEA END” by Laurel L. Russwurm and “AT&T ATandT” by Mike Mozart are licensed under CC BY 2.0