And Of Course DEA Had Its Own Database Of Metadata On All Calls From Inside The US To Certain Foreign Countries
from the because-of-course-it-did dept
It’s both interesting and troubling to see just how frequently the DEA keeps popping up in various stories about the intelligence community and surveillance. We’ve written about how the DEA was getting classified information and then trained to “launder” the details of how it got it via parallel construction, how it had “embedded” AT&T employees who could help the DEA look up any info it needed and how it had its own HEMISPHERE database of call record info going back to 1987.
But it wasn’t entirely clear how much information was in that database. And yet, in a recently revealed declaration from a DEA agent, it was revealed that the DEA had a database on every phone call from inside the US to certain countries outside the US, which it could then query using the typical RAS — “reasonable articulable suspicion” — standard that the NSA has used to query its giant database as well. That is, rather than targeting just suspicious calls, the DEA got a database of all calls to certain key countries.
This database [REDACTED] consisted of telecommunications metadata obtained from United States telecommunications service providers pursuant to administrative subpoenas served upon the service providers under the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 876. This metadata related to international telephone calls originating in the United States and calling [REDACTED] designated foreign countries, one of which was Iran, that were determined to have demonstrated a nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities. This metadata consisted exclusively of the initiating telephone number; the receiving telephone number; the date, time, and duration of the call; and the method by which the call was billed.
The program was shut down in September of 2013, just as the NY Times wrote about the program (funny, that…). As Marcy Wheeler notes, there’s at least a decent chance this effort was just about trying to support sanctions against Iran (tracking if someone in the US is actually doing business with Iran) rather than drug trafficking. Either way, it shows yet another example of how much the government seems willing to scoop up tons of information on innocent people in hopes that there’s a needle in all those stacks of hay.