White House Program Could Be Illegal

 November 21, 2023

In a recent development, Senator Ron Wyden has voiced concerns over a White House program, raising questions about its legality and demanding more transparency.

Senator Wyden is questioning the legality of a White House program known as Data Analytical Services (DAS) that allows law enforcement to access Americans' phone records without warrants.

The DAS program, formerly called Hemisphere, has been operating since 2009. It has cost taxpayers over $5 million, money paid to AT&T for providing Americans' phone records to law enforcement, often without a warrant.

Concerns Over the Use of DAS

This program gives law enforcement the power to access and analyze the phone records of American citizens, irrespective of their involvement in criminal activities. This has led to widespread concern over potential misuse of the program and the infringement of citizens' privacy rights.

Documents leaked to the media have shown that local police forces have utilized the DAS program for cases not related to drug control, contrary to the program's funding source - the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Justice Department responded to Senator Wyden's concerns in 2019 by providing pages of information regarding DAS. Now, the Senator is seeking to make this information available to the public in the interest of transparency.

Funding and Legal Complexities of DAS

The DAS program has managed to evade the usual privacy evaluations. This is possible due to the program's obscure funding source: grants from the White House rather than direct funding from a federal agency.

In November 2023, Senator Wyden expressed his intention to vote against the reauthorization of FISA Section 702 without reforms. His concerns have culminated in a public letter, published on November 20, questioning the legality of DAS and demanding transparency.

Senator Wyden wrote:

"This surveillance program is not classified. The public interest in an informed debate about government surveillance far outweighs the need to keep this information secret. 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."

AT&T's Response to the Controversy

In response to Senator Wyden's letter, a spokesperson for AT&T directed inquiries to the Justice Department. The spokesperson emphasized that, as with all companies, AT&T is legally required to comply with subpoenas, warrants, and court orders issued by government and law enforcement agencies.

The spokesperson further clarified that any information referred to in Senator Wyden's letter would have been produced under legal compulsion, either by a subpoena, warrant, or court order.

In light of these developments, the public waits for the Justice Department's next move as the debate over the DAS program and its implications for privacy continues to unfold.

Conclusion

  • Senator Ron Wyden is questioning the legality of the DAS program, which allows law enforcement to access Americans' phone records frequently without a warrant.
  • DAS has paid AT&T over $5 million since 2009 to provide these records.
  • Despite being funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, DAS has been used in cases not related to drug control.
  • Wyden is demanding the Justice Department release more information about the program to improve transparency.
  • DAS evades typical privacy evaluations due to being funded by obscure White House grants.

About Robert Cunningham

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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