August 16, 2022

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Listens to Billions of Phone Calls

Our nation has now learned that another federal agency is spying on the American people. Scott Shane and Colin Moynihan wrote an article in The New York Times entitled “Drug agents’ phone trove eclipses NSA´s” on September 2, 2013. The reporters explained that for at least six years the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have had routine access using subpoenas to an immense AT&T database that has the records of decades of phone calls of Americans. The DEA calls this program the Hemisphere Project, which is a partnership between the federal agency, local drug officials, and AT&T. Under this partnership, AT&T employees work alongside DEA agents and local police and give them phone data from as far back as 1987.

The training slides of the DEA Hemisphere Project was acquired by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist, after he submitted public information requests to a police agency in the West Coast. Hendricks gave the training slides for the Hemisphere Project to The New York Times. The Hemisphere Project comes at a time when our nation is having a public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the government relationship with communication companies.

The reporters pointed out the following: “The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by any other government programs, including the National Security Agency’s (NSA) gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The NSA stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls for five years. Unlike the NSA data, the Hemisphere data include information on the locations of callers.” The data for phone numbers of interest to the DEA is requested using what is called “administrative subpoenas”, which are issued by the drug enforcement federal agency and not by a grand jury or a judge.

Approximately another four billion calls are added to the database every day, according to the slides. This program has been carried out in great secrecy and employees are informed to never refer to the Hemisphere Project in any official document. The Obama administration admitted the enormous scale of the Hemisphere Project database and the fact that AT&T employees were paid by the government to work in the DEA offices in three states. Government officials have stated that the Hemisphere Project is useful in finding criminals who often throw away cell phones to prevent government tracking of their activities.

Shane and Moynihan reported that Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that this program “certainly raises profound privacy concerns”. Jaffer pointed out that “I’d speculate that one reason for the secrecy of the program is that it would be very hard to justify it to the public or the courts.” He also said that “even though the database was kept in the possession of AT&T, the fact that DEA government officials were integrated into the process means they are serious Fourth Amendment concerns.”



The DEA’s Hemisphere Project is another evidence that our nation is becoming at best a surveillance state and at worse a police state. President Barack Obama has no respect for our Constitution or the rule of law and neithereric-holder-and-obama-phone-calls does his Attorney General Eric Holder. The Hemisphere Project violates the privacy provisions of the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. Unfortunately, the Hemisphere Project is not an isolated spying program.

The Obama administration is using the excuse of fighting criminals and terrorists to conduct an unbelievable spying on Americans in an unprecedented magnitude like never before in our history. Our nation has become aware of the Obama administration numerous scandals: the National Security Agency (NSA) and its massive spying on the American people and in many countries around the world, the data mining included in the federal imposed Common Core curriculum and standards, the Internal Revenue Service’s persecution of conservative, patriot and religious organizations as well as of large donors to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign of 2012, and the Department of Justice’s Fast and Furious gun-running operation and its spying on journalists as well as  its multiple cover-ups.

The White House under Obama has been involved in an unprecedented multitude of  scandals and violations to our Constitution, more than any previous presidents in our history. The American people have the right to be alarm that President Barack Obama is taking our nation on the road to a totalitarian society, such as the one described by George Orwell in his novel 1984.