‘Hemisphere’: Secret White House Surveillance Program Allows Cops To Spy On Trillions Of US Phone Records Without Warrants

Even Democrats are pushing back against Biden’s police state.

US Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore.,  is blowing the whistle on a secretive surveillance program that permits federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement agencies to surveil over a trillion domestic phone records annually.

On Sunday, Sen. Wyden sent a letter to the Department of Justice warning the Data Analytical Services, formerly known as Hemisphere Project, illegally authorizes government agencies to track, monitor Americans’ calls and analyze the phone records of everyday people who are not suspected of committing any crime, including victims of crimes.

The Democrat lawmaker called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to publicly disclose all documents related to the Hemisphere phone surveillance program. While the documents are not classified, the Justice Department has categorized them as “Law Enforcement Sensitive” to prevent them from being publicly released.

Hemisphere relies on chain analysis, a technique that facilitates government agencies to spy on the targeted individuals as well as anyone who has been in contact with the targeted individual without warrants.

“I have serious concerns about the legality of this surveillance program, and the materials provided by the DOJ contain troubling information that would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress,” Wyden wrote in a letter to Garland. “While I have long defended the government’s need to protect classified sources and methods, this surveillance program is not classified and its existence has already been acknowledged by the DOJ in federal court.

Ron Wyden | US News
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“The public interest in an informed debate about government surveillance outweighs the need to keep this information secret.”

Hemisphere is run in coordination with the telecom giant AT&T. AT&T captures and conducts analysis of US call records for law enforcement agencies, from local police and sheriff’s departments to US customs offices and postal inspectors across the country.

In 2009, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy began paying AT&T to allow all law enforcement agencies to probe AT&T customers’ phone records as far back as 1987.

All calls that use AT&T’s infrastructure, a matrix of routers and switches across the United States, are subject to targeting by the DAS program. Information collected includes caller and recipient names, phone numbers, and dates and times of calls.

ONDCP has provided more than $6 million to the program to date.

In 2013, the White House funding for Hemisphere was suspended after it was exposed by the New York Times, but that same year, federal funding for the program continued under “a new generic sounding name, ‘Data Analytical Services,'” Wyden notes, in his letter to the DOJ. “ONDCP funding for this surveillance program was quietly resumed by the Trump Administration in 2017, paused again in 2021, the first year of the Biden Administration, and then quietly restarted again in 2022.
Law enforcement agencies abusing its AT&T partnership with government agencies to circumvent laws, Wyden explained.
“One law enforcement official described the Hemisphere Project as ‘AT&T’s Super Search Engine’ and … ‘Google on Steroids,’ according to emails released by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Freedom of Information Act,” he wrote. Although the Hemisphere Project is paid for with federal funds, they are delivered to AT&T through an obscure grant program, enabling the program to skip an otherwise mandatory federal privacy review.
“If the funds came directly from a federal agency, such as the DEA, Hemisphere would have been subjected to a mandatory Privacy Impact Assessment conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the findings of which would be made public. Instead, ONDCP provides funding for the program through the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), one of 33 regional funding organizations as a part of a grant program created by Congress and administered by ONDCP. The HIDTAs distribute federal anti-drug law enforcement grants to state and local agencies, and are governed by a board made up entirely of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.”

Wyden, a lead sponsor of the Government Surveillance Reform Act is demanding swift congressional action on the federally funded government surveillance program.

Wyden along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Reps. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif introduced the Government Surveillance Reform Act earlier this month to crackdown on the federal government’s “disturbing” misuse of surveillance authorities.

“Americans know that it is possible to confront our country’s adversaries ferociously without throwing our constitutional rights in the trash can. But for too long surveillance laws have not kept up with the changing times,” Wyden said in a statement announcing the bill on Nov. 7. “Our bill continues to give government agencies broad authority to collect information on threats at home and abroad, including the ability to act quickly in emergencies and settle up with the court later,” he added. “But it creates much stronger protections for the privacy of law-abiding Americans, and restores the warrant protections that are at the heart of the Fourth Amendment.”

The proposed measure would also reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows warrantless surveillance of electronic communications targeting foreigners located outside of the United States. While Section 702 is designed to acquire foreign intelligence information, a massive amount of data from American citizens is frequently collected as the foreign target is surveilled.

Section 702 is set to expire at the end of this year unless reauthorized by federal lawmakers.

In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in consultation with the Department of Justice released a redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion confirming the FBI misused the Section 702 database over 278,000 times, including data it collected in its search of information related to people suspected of protesting at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, donors to congressional candidates and protesters arrested after the death of George Floyd.

Also, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) wrote, “I just contacted the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director in response to disturbing new info related to a mass surveillance program called The Hemisphere Project. These programs are all about CONTROL over Americans.”

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Alicia is an investigative journalist and multimedia reporter. Alicia's work is featured on numerous outlets including the Gateway Pundit, Project Veritas, Red Voice Media, World Net Daily, Townhall and Media Research Center, where she uncovers fraud and abuse in government, media, Big Tech, Big Pharma and public corruption. Alicia has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She served in the Correspondence Department of the George W. Bush administration and as a War Room analyst for the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee.

You can email Alicia Powe here, and read more of Alicia Powe's articles here.


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