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There Are Serious Concerns About Secretive WH Program

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Sen. Ron Wyden expressed concerns about the legality of a surveillance program called “Data Analytical Services” run out of the Biden White House, which allows federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to mine the details of Americans’ calls, analyzing the phone records of countless people who are not suspected of any crime.

The program, known as Hemisphere, is run in coordination with AT&T and allows law enforcement agencies to request often-warrantless searches of trillions of domestic phone records.

“Using a technique known as chain analysis, the program targets not only those in direct phone contact with a criminal suspect but anyone with whom those individuals have been in contact as well,” the tech news outlet added.

“Records show that the White House has, for the past decade, provided more than $6 million to the program, which allows the targeting of the records of any calls that use AT&T’s infrastructure—a maze of routers and switches that crisscross the United States,” Wired reported.

Wyden has urged the Department of Justice to release materials regarding the Hemisphere Project, expressing serious concerns about the legality of the surveillance program.

“This is a long-running dragnet surveillance program in which the White House pays AT&T to provide all federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies the ability to request often-warrantless searches of trillions of domestic phone records,” Wyden wrote.

“The scale of the data available to and routinely searched for the benefit of law enforcement under the Hemisphere Project is stunning in its scope. 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 added.

“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,” Wyden said.

“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,” the letter read.

“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.”

“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.”

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

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