A secretive drug program run by the government in conjunction with AT&T has access to more U.S. phone data than the NSA. The Hemisphere Project uses archives of American citizens' phone calls going back decades. The program has been so hush-hush that even official mention of its name in writing is prohibited.
The project is a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House's drug policy office. Its existence will no doubt spark questions over the subject of U.S. citizens' privacy. Although the data is owned by AT&T rather than the government, it can be accessed by an "administrative subpoena" when a federal agency is attempting to get information on phone numbers of interest. The process does not involve a grand jury or a judge.
While the NSA stores data for five years, the Hemisphere Project can get its hands on calls dating back to 1987. And it covers every single call that passes through an AT&T switchboard—4 billion calls are added to the database each day. The revelations have come to light after peace activist Drew Hendricks, of Port Hadlock, Washington State, received a 27-slide PowerPoint presentation following some public information requests to police agencies.
[Image: Flickr user USDAgov]