In an eye-opening investigation by Wired, a clandestine surveillance operation managed by the White House has come to light, raising serious privacy and legal alarms. This operation, known as Data Analytical Services (DAS), allows a broad spectrum of law enforcement agencies, including federal, state, and local entities, to access an enormous trove of American phone records.
DAS, in partnership with AT&T, is not just a simple surveillance tool; it’s a comprehensive system that analyzes American call records extensively. This means it’s not just the suspects under the radar, but their entire social network that gets scrutinized, potentially implicating innocent individuals in its wide net. The depth of this surveillance is staggering, with over a trillion domestic phone records tracked annually.
The program’s approach is notably different from conventional wiretapping, which typically requires a warrant based on probable cause. Instead, DAS leverages AT&T’s vast database, collecting information such as caller and recipient names, phone numbers, and timestamps of calls. This is significant because AT&T is not legally required to store these records for long durations, yet they do, indicating a voluntary collaboration with law enforcement that raises eyebrows.
The scope of DAS’s reach is vast, covering networks across the nation via AT&T’s infrastructure. Despite this extensive operation, the program has remained relatively unknown to the public, largely due to its oversight by the White House, which is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This lack of transparency is a red flag, obscuring the program’s activities from public scrutiny.
Leaked documents and public records have recently shed light on the widespread use of DAS. These records show requests for “Hemisphere analysis” to track down suspects by examining their social connections, illustrating the expansive nature of the program. Moreover, the range of law enforcement officials involved in DAS training sessions, from postal inspectors to parole officers, signals a broad adoption across various law enforcement branches.
This revelation about DAS’s operation and the extent of its surveillance capabilities is a wake-up call. It highlights a critical issue regarding the balance between national security needs and the privacy rights of citizens. The scale and secrecy of DAS’s activities pose significant questions about the oversight and legality of such widespread surveillance, especially when it potentially infringes on the privacy of millions of Americans.