The White House under Democrat President Joe Biden has been revealed to be allocating taxpayer funds to support a clandestine surveillance program, enabling authorities to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ phone records. Although the program was initiated during the administration of former President Barack Obama, it has persisted under Biden with a different designation.
Initially exposed around a decade ago, the unconstitutional intelligence collection program, funded by the White House, came to light through media reports based on leaks and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosures. A recent report indicates that essentially the same secretive surveillance program, allowing law enforcement agencies to scrutinize phone company data without a warrant, continues under a new name, as reported by Breitbart.
The revelation has reignited concerns about constitutional and legal issues surrounding the expectations of privacy and protection from unreasonable, warrantless searches for the American populace.
Last week, Wired reported on a covert White House-led surveillance initiative known as Data Analytical Services (DAS), which is essentially the reincarnation of the controversial “Hemisphere” program exposed by The New York Times in 2013. While ostensibly shut down after the initial revelations, the program has apparently been revived under President Biden.
Operated in collaboration with AT&T, the DAS program has received over $6 million in taxpayer-funded grant funds from the White House over the past decade. DAS employs a technique called “chain analysis,” enabling law enforcement agencies at various levels—local, state, tribal, and federal—to collect phone records and data on nearly every individual within and beyond the United States, without their knowledge or consent.
Originally designed to target individuals involved in the illicit drug trade, leaked documents indicate that the Data Analytical Services (DAS) program has been utilized for various other law enforcement purposes. Exploiting a perceived “loophole,” the White House leverages the program to allow police access to information on both criminal suspects and innocent individuals without the need for specific warrant applications that might face rejection from a judge.
Although documents suggested the purported shutdown of the Hemisphere program by then-President Obama in response to the initial Times report, the program persisted under a new name, funded secretly by the Biden administration.
Beyond concerns about privacy violations and warrantless searches, the covert nature of the program has sparked apprehension due to the absence of congressional oversight or independent federal review. Furthermore, the White House is not obligated to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the DAS program.
Wired’s report closely followed a public letter from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to Attorney General Merrick Garland, addressing concerns about the DAS program. The letter urged the Department of Justice to release as much information about the program as possible.
“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,” the Democratic senator wrote.
“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,” he added.
“The public interest in an informed debate about government surveillance far outweighs the need to keep this information secret.”
In another section of the letter, Senator Wyden highlighted the vast repository of phone records spanning multiple decades, accessible to law enforcement without a warrant through the DAS program. He remarked, “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.” Wyden pointed out that law enforcement sources had likened it to “AT&T’s Super Search Engine” and dubbed it as “Google on Steroids.”
In early November, Senator Wyden, along with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and other bipartisan and bicameral supporters, unveiled the Government Surveillance Reform Act. This legislative initiative appears to address and rectify concerns raised about the DAS program and other questionable federal surveillance programs.
“Americans know that it is possible to confront our country’s adversaries ferociously without throwing our constitutional rights in the trash can,” Wyden said at the time.
“But for too long surveillance laws have not kept up with changing times.
“Our bill continues to give government agencies broad authority to collect information on threats at home and abroad, including the ability to act quickly in emergencies and settle up with the court later.
“But it creates much stronger protections for the privacy of law-abiding Americans, and restores the warrant protections that are at the heart of the Fourth Amendment.”