Saturday, June 22, 2024

Report: White House Secretly Reactivated Funding to Collect TRILLIONS of U.S. Phone Records

'The materials provided by the DOJ contain troubling information that would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Tech publication Wired reported Monday that the White House has reactivated funding for a secret program to collect more than 1 trillion domestic phone calls per year.

First revealed by the New York Times as “Hemisphere” in 2013, what’s now known as the Data Analytical Services program has allowed federal, state and local law enforcement—in coordination with AT&T—to mine the details of Americans’ calls for more than a decade.

The records reportedly include a range of identifying information, including the caller and recipient’s names, phone numbers, and the dates and times they placed calls.

According to a 2022 White House memo obtained by Wired, the White House has provided at least $6.1 million in discretionary funding to the DAS program since 2013.

Former President Barack Obama reportedly suspended funding for the program in 2013 amidsdt public outcry, but Donald Trump’s administration resumed funding. The funding was again briefly suspended in 2021, but resumed last year.

Throughout that whole time, the program has reportedly remained ongoing regardless of White House funding decisions. Other agencies have funded the program via grants.

The fact that it’s effectively run out of the White House means it is exempt from rules requiring assessments of its privacy impacts, according to Wired.

The White House is also exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Sunday, expressing concerns about the secretive domestic surveillance.

“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,” Wyden said.

Wyden said his office received information about the program in 2019, but has not been permitted to make the info public.

“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,” he said to Garland.

“To that end, I urge you to promptly clear for public release the material.”

AT&T reportedly declined to comment for Wired’s story, while the White House did respond to media inquiries.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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