For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
You probably shouldn’t readthis story, unless you feel like being at least a little bit angry this afternoon. If the report is true, AT&T has been providing decades worth of call logs to the Drug Enforcement Agency, and that includes all calls which passed through AT&T switches. Even if one or more parties wasn’t an AT&T customer. It’s estimated that four billion calls are saved to the Hemisphere Project database each day.