On Wednesday, The U.K. Daily Mail posted the following headline:
Congress demands answers from White House over ‘invasive’ surveillance program known as Hemisphere that has tracked TRILLIONS of phone records for Americans each year – even if they are not suspected of a crime
Who authorized this surveillance?
The article reports:
Congress is demanding answers from the Biden administration about a secret spying program that tracks more than a trillion phone records from innocent and unsuspecting Americans each year.
The under-the-radar system, known as Data Analytical Services or ‘Hemisphere,’ has been in operation for over a decade. It allows federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to tap into the phone records of U.S. citizens who have not been accused of any crime.
Under the Hemisphere program the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) pays phone service provider AT&T to hand over phone records as far back as 1987.
The deal first came to light in 2013 after a bombshell New York Times report, but it has since been expanded.
The article notes that Congress is ready to investigate why the government is spying on innocent Americans.
The article reports:
Republican congressman Andy Biggs, Ariz., accused the government of spying on Americans.
Hemisphere is ‘invasive’ and allows ‘government agents warrantless access to trillions of Americans’ domestic communications records,’ he said.
Biggs went on: ‘The federal government doesn’t care about your privacy and it’s long past time we end these abuses and hold rogue actors accountable.
‘The Hemisphere Project highlights major loopholes in federal law through which the government is able to spy on Americans without judicial oversight, such as the purchase of personal data.’
Congress is currently considering renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702.
That allows for warrantless surveillance of foreigners but often catches the conversations of Americans.
Biggs said it must also look at the Hemisphere program.
The article concludes:
The program is run primarily by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Its stated purpose is to help investigate drug traffickers and other complex criminal enterprises.
However, it has also been used to arrest jewelry store robbers, a murder suspect and even a woman who was making nuisance bomb threats.
The program bypasses usual privacy regulations through a complex network of funding.
Rather than directly funding the surveillance, the ONDCP provides a grant to the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which in turn pays AT&T to operate the program.
Because of this Hemisphere is not subject to a federal Privacy Impact Assessment like most projects funded by federal agencies.
The program is obviously not successful in stemming the drug problem; why is it still in place?