Sen. Wyden Reveals New Details about the Massive Hemisphere Surveillance Program

November 21, 2023

Yesterday, in a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Sen. Ron Wyden revealed stunning new details about the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Hemisphere program, now known as Data Analytical Services (DAS), a vast and highly-secretive surveillance authority run by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA. Under DAS, law enforcement agencies at the state, local, and federal levels serve AT&T administrative subpoenas—which under current law are not subject to any judicial oversight—to obtain more than a trillion call detail records, including location information. While DAS is ostensibly supposed to used exclusively to obtain information relevant to drug-related crimes, WIRED reports that agencies have used this authority for a variety of non-drug related investigations. Sen. Wyden, in his letter, noted that he has “serious concerns about the legality of this surveillance program,” and that materials provided by DOJ “contain troubling information that would justifiably outrage many Americans and other members of Congress.”

EPIC has published a fact sheet about the Hemisphere/DAS program and released the following statements following Wired’s story:

“The Data Analytical Services, or Hemisphere, program is just the latest example of the U.S. government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans. Congress needs to end this outrageous violation of Americans’ civil liberties.” – Alan Butler, Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

“The Data Analytical Services (DAS) and its predecessor, Hemisphere, are yet another piece of the warrantless government surveillance ecosystem, which has enabled the government to acquire staggering amounts of Americans’ most sensitive information. Congress must conduct a hearing on DAS immediately and rein in this outrageous practice before reauthorizing any other parts of this surveillance ecosystem such as FISA Section 702.” – Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight

EPIC filed suit against the DEA in 2013 after the agency failed to respond to EPIC’s FOIA request for information about the Hemisphere program, leading to the release of records revealing that both the FBI and CBP obtained access to these call detail records. EPIC recently endorsed the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA), which would ensure judicial review and robust oversight of DAS and other massive surveillance programs. It would also fix gaps in statutory protections for Americans’ most sensitive information, ensuring that agencies cannot evade existing protections, such as by purchasing information.

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