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AT&T Maintains Call Database For the DEA Going Back To 1987

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the all-your-calls-are-belong-to-us dept.

United States 141

Jah-Wren Ryel writes "Forget the NSA — the DEA has been working hand-in-hand with AT&T on a database of records of every call that passes through AT&T's phone switches going back as far as 1987. The government pays AT&T for contractors who sit side-by-side with DEA agents and do phone records searches for them. From the article: 'For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counter narcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.'"

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141 comments

WTF??? (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44738323)

The article is behind a god damned paywall. This one isn't [go.com] . Google lists many, many sources.

Does Jah-Wren Ryel work for the Times and is trying to increase subscription numbers? A link to a paywall is no citation whatever.

Oh, and according to what I read, these aren't warrentless searches.

Re:WTF??? (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | about 8 months ago | (#44738453)

Yeah, having a hard time raging at this. There's a difference between just giving every call ever to the government for the fun of it, and having an agent show up with papers in order, asking for the calls to/from a certain number and getting only that.

Re:WTF??? (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 8 months ago | (#44738669)

That's great, except that all of our phone calls are still being recorded. This is something the Stasi could only DREAM of.

Re:WTF??? (5, Insightful)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 8 months ago | (#44738745)

That's great, except that all of our phone calls are still being recorded. This is something the Stasi could only DREAM of.

Read a little closer. This is the metadata that everyone is so worried about. It's not the actual conversation that's recorded, but the number called, call duration, and locations the cell phone was in for the duration of the call. The only new thing added to this list since the last half century is location data.

The scary thing about this is AT&T never deletes your call data. EVER. There's a reason why some EU privacy directives have a retention limit [wsj.com] . Which is ironically in direct contrast to the mandatory retention policies for law enforcement use in those very same countries.

Re:WTF??? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739093)

"Read a little closer. This is the metadata that everyone is so worried about. It's not the actual conversation that's recorded, but the number called, call duration, and locations the cell phone was in for the duration of the call. The only new thing added to this list since the last half century is location data."

We know that you called a local dealer 27 times in 89, 42 times in 95 an 17 times in 03, we busted him last week.
So don't tell us you never touched that stuff.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739317)

Circumstantial. He was a local drug dealer and bookie. All I did was make illegal bets. I swear!

Re:WTF??? (2)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 8 months ago | (#44739543)

Circumstantial. He was a local drug dealer and bookie. All I did was make illegal bets. I swear!

Hmm, DEA or IRS. That choice entirely depends on how much money you have to throw at the problem. The IRS will often just take a check, and it's all nice and legal. The DEA on the other hand will tell you just how much you're going to spend on the half way house. You really thought the government paid for those? All the while, they'll be mentioning how much cheaper it is for you to just cooperate with them. Pay a "fine" right then and there. Cash only, no lawyers.

Re:WTF??? (3, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | about 8 months ago | (#44739763)

Back in the early-mid 1990s, I worked on a billing data collection system that was to be sold to the Australian and German telcos.

The EBAF and SMDR data collected from the phone switches only includes the to/from phone numbers, the start time of the call, and the end time of the call. it's sufficient to do billing calculations, but absolutely does not include recordings of the calls themselves.

Back then, of course, online storage was very expensive and computers were only in the 386 power range, so once billing was completed, the data was archived off to tape in case there were any billing discrepencies that had to be investigated in the future. It would seem those tapes were retained and loaded into the online systems that are feasible nowadays.

Still, I am surprised that they bothered doing so -- it's not like they'd be willing to correct billing that far back. So it had to be done in response to law enforcement demands rather than because of any valid business need.

Re:WTF??? (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#44738743)

and having an agent show up with papers in order

Now, if only that were a 4th Amendment warrant that was enforcing an enumerated power, it might even be legal.

Re:WTF??? (3, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 months ago | (#44739265)

There's a difference between just giving every call ever to the government for the fun of it, and having an agent show up with papers in order, asking for the calls to/from a certain number and getting only that.

The NSA has a warrant for everything they do to. The problem is not the warrants, the problem is the existence of the database. It is begging for abuse, perhaps by the government, perhaps by AT&T, perhaps by criminals that have infiltrated either.

The cali cartel set up their own version of this database [cocaine.org] in Colombia and used it to sniff out any of their people who were talking to law enforcement.

Re:WTF??? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#44739607)

Warrants are only as good as the judges who issue them - the NSA makes use of FISA courts, which are really just rubber-stampers. In any case, if a warrant is ever denied, there's nothing to stop it just being reworded and applied for again in hope of a more sympathetic judge.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738469)

Oh, and according to what I read, these aren't warrentless searches.

That is usually what "with subpoenas" means. Which makes me wonder. If there's been a paper trail of this leading all the way back to 1987, why are we only just now hearing about it?

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738533)

If there's been a paper trail of this leading all the way back to 1987, why are we only just now hearing about it?

Because everyone is whipped up into a lather about the NSA program right now, so any story like this is an easy way to generate page views. Or put another way, a lot of "journalists" are slackers and it's easy to just print crap like this and check out early for Labor Day weekend.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738611)

Because every whistleblower so far followed the law and reported the issue privately the government, never notifying a journalist. They then all suddenly moved to rural areas in Asia and never spoke to anyone again.

Re:WTF??? (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#44738675)

If there's been a paper trail of this leading all the way back to 1987, why are we only just now hearing about it?

Because it is no big deal. The DEA had proper judicial oversight, and only saw records of specific individuals, and only when they had sufficient probable cause to get a subpoena. It is the way the system is supposed to work, and is the way it should have worked with the NSA. What you should be outraged about is the very existence of the DEA, a government agency devoted to monitoring and controlling our bodily fluids. Once you get past that, worrying about a few phone records is pretty silly.

Re:WTF??? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738781)

If there's been a paper trail of this leading all the way back to 1987, why are we only just now hearing about it?

Because it is no big deal. The DEA had proper judicial oversight,

"Administrative subpoena" == NO judicial oversight, not even by a judge's clerk. The term is newspeak, deliberately chosen to induce exactly the misunderstanding you had.

Warrantless surveillance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738857)

Agreed, it's surveillance when they record your actions, not when then get a warrant to take a look at that recording (or in the case of the NSA click a checkbox and fucking lie to Congress about getting a warrant).

It's no different than if they stuck a GPS tracker on you, just in case they wanted to serve a warrant on you in future to get your GPS location.

Come to think of it, the phone records now include your location, so its exactly identical.

Fucking mass surveillance. They got away with it, because it was kept secret. As if hiding a crime, somehow makes it not a crime!

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739033)

I would rather know why there is a database of all calls going back more than a year or so to cover billing disputes etc.

Do they also use it for marketing? You call Joey's Pizza every Saturday and next thing you know you start getting adverts or flyers for Bob's Deep Dish.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739199)

"Because it is no big deal. The DEA had proper judicial oversight, and only saw records of specific individuals, and only when they had sufficient probable cause to get a subpoena. It is the way the system is supposed to work,"

What? Preemptively covering all communications of a 25 year old dope dealer since the day he was born?
And everybody who ever called him from the age of 5 is a possible user, flagged in the database?
Cross-referenced with all other 25 year old dealers?

Way to go.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739291)

Your other points are valid.

"What you should be outraged about is the very existence of the DEA, a government agency devoted to monitoring and controlling our bodily fluids."

This is a bit ridiculous. I suppose you have similar complaints about the FDA? Even if this stuff gets legalized, you're still going to need oversight or businesses are going to take advantage of their customers by providing products with dubious quality that will get people sick or killed. The government doesn't "monitor and control our bodily fluids", they just make sure that companies don't sell us crap products and get away with it.

Re:WTF??? (2)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 8 months ago | (#44739549)

Because it is no big deal. The DEA had proper judicial oversight, and only saw records of specific individuals, and only when they had sufficient probable cause to get a subpoena. It is the way the system is supposed to work, and is the way it should have worked with the NSA.

From the article:

Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called "administrative subpoenas," those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

So the DEA issues their own "warrants" making a mockery of the whole idea.

Re:WTF??? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#44738765)

The mid 1980's where a fun time in US computer history, US domestic needs and digital file tracking.
You had the Church report so no domestic operation/unit/task force really ever wanted any unique keywords used again.
You also had an interesting funding mix and database upgrades - many connecting to each other for the first time or been able to be searched via a network and the results combined - cases/city/state/federal/telco.
The results where hinted at in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Core [wikipedia.org]
http://consortiumnews.com/2013/07/11/prisms-controversial-forerunner/ [consortiumnews.com] (late 1970s early 80s to bring DoJ criminal case management)
that seemed to allow http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/18/patriot_games [foreignpolicy.com]

Re:WTF??? (5, Informative)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#44738529)

Welcome to the Hemisphere Project (a term not found in many "official documents" it seems:
Every call that passes through a switch is covered ie not just one teclo's customers.
All the call data ie the classic pen register seems to be collected at the rate "four billion call records are added to the database every day".
The locations of callers is also logged.
The data is not stored by the US gov ie telco employees work on the system ie as "private data".
All done under friendly administrative warrants -ie courts??? judges???
Basically it is what many have hinted at - total mastery of all US calls via one telco.

Re:WTF??? (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44738543)

The slide deck [documentcloud.org] is available.

Aside from the 'WTF is AT&T doing with over a quarter-century of phone records that would justify the cost of storing them, anyway?' angle, there are a few... concerning... elements.

1. The searches aren't "warrantless" in the strictest sense; but apparently most of them occur by the process of 'administrative subpoena', which requires no judicial oversight. The DEA has the power to get one simply by asserting that it needs one because drugs. (Sections 506 and 507 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 [gpo.gov] ). Given that the features of the program include turnaround times of an hour or less, barring atypically complex queries, there is clearly very limited review going on. It isn't the DEA running raw SQL queries; but the separation between it being the 'DEA's database' and 'AT&T's database' appears to be fairly limited.

2. Pretty much everything in the section of the presentation entitled "Protecting The Program"(starts on page 8): The program is 'unclassified' but "All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document" and there are specific instructions on how to conceal Hemisphere as the source in an investigation by using it first, to guide further subpoenas, and then retroactively building a case only on the subsequent subpoenas, in order to conceal, from the court and everyone else, the role of Hemisphere. As they describe the process:

When a complete set of CDRs are subpoenaed from the carrier, then all memorialized references to relevant and pertinent calls can be attributed to the carrier’s records, thus “walling off” the information obtained from Hemisphere. In other words, Hemisphere can easily be protected if it is used as a pointer system to uncover relevant numbers.

In special cases, we realize that it might not be possible to obtain subpoenaed phone records that will “wall off” Hemisphere.

In these special circumstances, the Hemisphere analyst should be contacted immediately. The analyst will work with the investigator and request a separate subpoena to AT&T

This practice of evidence laundering would appear to be very similar to the "Parallel Construction [reuters.com] " process described as in use by the DEA for other giant secretive data sources (with 'Parallel Construction' being the term for "recreating" a fictional chain of evidence that excludes the existence of sensitive data sources. Less friendly audiences might call this 'perjury'...)

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738741)

Wow.. So it turns out that (parts of) the US government actually _are_ smarter than the average bear.. Who'd have thunk?

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738631)

Delete your nytimes cookies. Retry.

Re:WTF??? (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 months ago | (#44739235)

Does Jah-Wren Ryel work for the Times and is trying to increase subscription numbers? A link to a paywall is no citation whatever.

I use a combination of plugins that have the side-effect of making most paywalls disappear, I don't even know it is there.
I recommend you do it too:

CookieSaver Lite [mozilla.org] - Set to block the NYTimes cookies
RefControl [mozilla.org] - Set to spoof the referrer when reading all NYTimes pages as "http://google.com/"
NoScript [noscript.net] - The NY Times does not need javascript for most pages. This may be optional for the NY Times but there are some paywalls like foreignpolicy.com that do rely on javascript.

FYI - the NY Times article is the definitive citation as they are the ones who broke the story.

Re:WTF??? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44739305)

Thanks for the info, but I don't want paywalled sites to get my eyeballs. The Illinois Times manages to give away paper copies as well as their online version and still make money, why can't the Times? They certainly have a much larger readership.

They are warrantless- DEA agents subpoena AT&T (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 8 months ago | (#44739587)

From the article:

"It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A."

So the DEA agents themselves decide to have AT&T pull your phone records.

Look at the size of my penis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738355)

In soviet russia state agencies show off how much more rights they erode than the others!

remorse? (0, Flamebait)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 8 months ago | (#44738367)

If you never voted for Ron Paul, don't you feel like an idiot now.

Re:remorse? (2, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 8 months ago | (#44738415)

Not even a little bit. Do you imagine Ron Paul would somehow have changed any of this?

Re:remorse? (2, Funny)

tmosley (996283) | about 8 months ago | (#44738693)

Keep doing what you have always done, you will get what you always got.

Ron Paul was/is different. If you can't see that, then you are blind, and a useful slave.

Re:remorse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738427)

If you never voted for Ron Paul, don't you feel like an idiot now.

I have never voted for Paul, and no, I don't feel like an idiot now. Another thing I have never done is set foot on US soil, though. (Which is looking more and more unlikely to happen in future.)

Not really no. He voted with his party (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738431)

Ron Paul was a libertarian in the party that started the war on drugs (Reagan) and was helping them effectively by being their fig leaf to bring in libertarian votes. Overall republicans were more in favor of warrant less wiretapping etc. (although democrats suck too so there is enough blame to go around) but Paul was not the answer. He was a part of the problem.

Re:Not really no. He voted with his party (3, Informative)

JackieBrown (987087) | about 8 months ago | (#44738551)

I can't stand Ron Paul but you really can't tie Ron Paul to any of the complaints you just listed since he was on voting record for being against everything you just mentioned.

And you also can't say the democrats are less in favor of warrant less anything when these types of wiretaps and general invasions of privacy has increased since the democrats took over. I guess you can make the case that the democrats talk louder against theses actions, but that doesn't really count for shit - well, I guess talking loud works to fool people like you.

Re:Not really no. He voted with his party (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44738625)

Ron Paul was a libertarian in the party that started the war on drugs (Reagan)

Nixon [wikipedia.org] came up with the phrase, although it actually started under a Democrat [wikipedia.org] , young fellow.

Re:Not really no. He voted with his party (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739219)

Point of order: in Wilson's time the Dems were still the conservative party.

Re:Not really no. He voted with his party (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 8 months ago | (#44738649)

the war on drugs was going on long before reagan. the war on drugs started with prohibition, when that didnt work it moved to marihuana in the late 30s. the push got strong under reagan for sure, but it hasnt slowed under bush clinton bush and obama. Learn your history coward.

Re:remorse? (0)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44738581)

I voted Green Party. The Libbies want corporations to have the liberty to foul the water and air. I grew up two miles from a Monsanto plant and saw the difference after the Clean Air Act. I don't want to go back to those times. The Greenies want to legalize drugs AND keep environmental protections.

Re:remorse? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738659)

Thanks for nothing.

Where I previously lived, the greenies managed to get a large city park closed. First the campers were thrown out (reports about illegal traps and poaching, which never was anything more than stuff said in the city council chambers.) Then the mountain bikers were thrown out because they skid on trails, causing erosion. Finally, the park was closed to the public because the greenies pushed for it.

Guess what. Six months later, said former park got leased to a company and is now a golf course. I'm sure the runoff from the constant fertilizer is quite "green".

Thank you greenies for one less place to go and more fecal chloroform in downstream streams/rivers making them unswimmable/undrinkable.

Re:remorse? (1, Offtopic)

ganjadude (952775) | about 8 months ago | (#44738701)

This right here is the perfect example of when groups push for goals without looking at the big picture. So not only did they take away camping, and hiking from the people who live there, but to add insult to injury, it was sold, and a golf course put in (private I assume) so the land is now not available for ANYONE, any animals that called the place home are now gone and theres an ugly private golf course where a once beautiful park was.

Environmentalists who push like this really piss me off. Meanwhile hes sitting at home patting himself on the back for what a good job he did saving the planet from the evil humans....

Re:remorse? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 8 months ago | (#44738833)

not sure that it is really off topic, it parallels what is going on with the government when they create these programs which end up growing into something which was not the intention, but by that point they are stuck with it so they convince themselves they are doing good.

People's Park in Bezerkely (2)

ulatekh (775985) | about 8 months ago | (#44738757)

For another example of left-wing psychos going overboard with public land, read about People's Park [wikipedia.org] in Bezerkely [wikipedia.org] .

I especially like how they made Ohlone Park [wikipedia.org] a dog's park, where dogs could be free from human oppression. Big surprise, they formed a pack, run by a Top Dog. Not only did Berkeley fail to create the New Man, they failed to create the New Dog.

Re:People's Park in Bezerkely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739783)

That Wikipedia link refers to it as "a dog park," not "a dog's park." A dog park is just a regular park that allows dog owners to let their dogs off-leash. Our local dog park, within Marymoor Park, is the only part of the park that the Parks Department hasn't ruined. It's consists of wood chip paths through dense clumps of local flora, with several points of access to a stream. Every other natural part of the park has been plowed under to make way for a fucking velodrome, a fucking climbing wall, multiple fucking sports fields, parking lots, and a goddamned motherfucking stage that is constantly fenced off so that the Parks Department can rent it out to Kenny Fucking Loggins. Oh, and for three months out of the year, Cirque du Soleil puts up a tent the size of an apartment complex, and everybody going to it, and to Kenny Fucking Loggins, parks all over the grass and kills it. Not on the profit-making sport fields, mind you, even if they're just made of dirt. They only expand parking into places you don't have to pay to rent out.

The dog park is gorgeous, and constantly filled with happy people and happy dogs. I don't even have a dog, and it's my favorite part of the park. The rest of the park is treated like a corporate profit center.

Re:remorse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739297)

so you're for Nixon.

Disclaimer (4, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about 8 months ago | (#44738371)

I think there is a simple solution for this. All phones sold should have a written disclaimer stamped on the case that reads "All calls are monitored for possible criminal activity and any other reason the authorities may deem necessary." I can't believe anyone thinks there is any privacy left on any public communications system.

Re:Disclaimer (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44738569)

In other news, an ample supply of white flags is a cheap and effective national defense strategy...

Re:Disclaimer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739689)

In other news, an ample supply of white flags is a cheap and effective national defense strategy...

Hmmm, doesn't seem to work too well for the French.

Re:Disclaimer (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 8 months ago | (#44738577)

Not only that, but actually current cell-site data for any phone is publicly available for a small fee [numberport...lookup.com] (1 cent). The GSM Home Location Register is a worldwide database which all carriers need access to for roaming to work, the fact that somehow some companies are able to sell access to it perhaps should not really surprise anyone. What you get back are cell tower IDs, not co-ordinates, but I guess it may be possible to build a map of tower IDs to physical locations (or obtain one) if you're determined enough. For many uses it's not even that hard, as you don't need all of them but just the small set of locations where you expect your target is likely to be.

I guess the next step for drug dealers and other people who don't want to carry a portable tracking device would be to use VoIP via VPNs or other proxy services. I anticipate that over time proxying traffic will become illegal ("packet laundering" anyone?). No way are governments going to give up this wonderful gift society gave them in the form of knowing everyones location, all the time.

Re:Disclaimer (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 8 months ago | (#44738583)

" I can't believe anyone thinks there is any privacy left on any public communications system."

Probably because they aren't public communications systems.

And the moral of the parable is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738385)

...do not expect privacy on communications infrastructure you do not own and control.

The Cloud is dead, long live The Cloud.
Hoorah, Hoorah! ...We the citizens are not very smart.

Privacy (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#44738471)

While i don't believe in the 'if you are innocent you have nothing to hide' concept, most people really don't care of the government knows that the wife told them to grab some milk on the way home.

The trade off was cheap and instantaneous communication between you and said wife. Most of us are willing to accept that level of intrusion for the convenience.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738651)

The "tradeoff" was never explicit that the government could/would care about your communication, because your communication channel was marketed and sold/contracted to you as just a "convenience" but not sold as "a convenience plus a governmental backdoor/intrusion".

I think the bigger issue here is about being mislead in contract with your communications provider. This is why the providers should have massive class actions thrown at them for supporting government requests without legal grounds. By doing so the providers are breaking the preconditions of why you agreed to a communications contract in the first place.

No where in any of my telecommunications contracts does it say the provider will *willingly* allow third parties to unlimited access to any information I may generate without legal grounds. The providers should be dragged over the courts for this, and we should be refunded for breach of contract and in the future providers must be explicit with whom data is shared before contract agreements are made.

I can see the advertising of the future - "If you buy a phone contract this month we will give all your personal data to the US. Govt. for free, no questions asked!"
my 2c

NYPD cannibal cop! (3, Interesting)

ulatekh (775985) | about 8 months ago | (#44738769)

While i don't believe in the 'if you are innocent you have nothing to hide' concept, most people really don't care of the government knows that the wife told them to grab some milk on the way home.

But I do care about the NYPD cannibal cop [usatoday.com] that abused a restricted law-enforcement database so that he could find women to consume. Do you really think he's the only one abusing the system?

Government bureaucracy at its best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738391)

Sharing the same database would have been too easy.

Re:Government bureaucracy at its best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738539)

Instead of a war on drugs we should have a war on stupid.. Oh wait... then there wouldn't be a government bureaucracy to run the war on stupid.

Why was this even posted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738421)

Isn't this information shown in every cop show or movie?

The key difference here is that this requires a subpoena, so it has some form of over sight. This is just a headline grabbing article.

Re:Why was this even posted? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738479)

Doesn't involve a judge though. Just the DEA.

Makes me wonder, though, just how many times the DEA denies a subpoena on a DEA-supposed pusher?

(Due process being SO last century...)

Re:Why was this even posted? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738587)

Doesn't involve a judge though. Just the DEA.

Wrong. If there's a subpoena, there's a judge.

Re:Why was this even posted? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44738657)

Doesn't involve a judge though. Just the DEA.

Wrong. If there's a subpoena, there's a judge.

Not necessarily [fas.org] . The DEA gained the ability to issue 'administrative subpoenas' in 1970, and uses them routinely and on a nontrivial scale. All they have to do is assert that the material is 'relevant to an investigation' [wired.com] and out it goes. No muss, no fuss, no tedious judicial oversight.

Re:Why was this even posted? (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 8 months ago | (#44738609)

From the article:

It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

In other words, no, there's no oversight. The DEA issues its own legal requests. The AT&T "contractors" who issue the queries sit next to the agents and are paid for by the DEA (in other words, they're employees of the government). Elsewhere the presentation makes a reference to routing requests via Washington state which somehow converts them into court orders, not sure what that's about.

Also, the presentation tells agents to cover up the fact that it exists and how to do so, so we're back into "parallel reconstruction" terroritory.

That said, I actually care less about this sort of thing than what the NSA is doing, as it's (a) not classified and apparently can be learned about via the regular channels despite their requests for secrecy and (b) it's being used to catch more ordinary, every day criminals like people who rob jewellery shops or make bomb threats. The almost total blurring between corporation and state is very concerning because it implies there's nothing stopping it from stepping over the line and becoming used for petty political activism or worse, but at least they try to actually justify the programs existence with examples (unlike nearly all NSA training material, it seems).

Re:Why was this even posted? (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 8 months ago | (#44738633)

No they are ATT employes just as the large number of BT employes at GCHQ are BT employees and not civil servants (well not any more post privatization)

Re:Why was this even posted? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#44738673)

Cop shows or movies dont really have the massive backend database waiting for a look.
Most classic scripts would have some hint at a court/judge and then some hardware on site or telco look up of a person named.
Billing records would be presented as fair game but after the right paperwork - all very formal and correct, tension in needing "evidence" and not losing a case.
A total 24/7 database of all a countries/regions calls, telco staff helping and internal paperwork per 'look' feels like a spy movie :)

Re:Why was this even posted? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#44739725)

CSI featured the 'Omniscient Database' so often, it inspired the TV Tropes page. Numb3rs didn't even bother to go into the question of where all the data was pulled in from, but communications analysis was a frequent technique there, and the police department in Dexter just has access to every DNA database everywhere to identify DNA - if they don't find a match in the police database they'll simply use the medical records database, or the paternity test record database. In one case they got a match because someone had been tested for STIs, and the clinic still had a sample of record they handed over without a warrant.

There's a practical reason for this in fiction: No-one wants to watch boring courtroom issues and debates over probably cause. Due process just gets in the way of the crimehunting detective work, so it is quickly glossed over unless there is a specific plot that requires it be focused upon.

Re:Why was this even posted? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#44738903)

Isn't this information shown in every cop show or movie?

Well, if Leslie Nielsen did in in The Naked Gun, it must be constitutional.

Some of the writers of more serious cop dramas make references to certain police activities in order to bring attention to them and trigger public discussions.

Important clause there (5, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 8 months ago | (#44738425)

'For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counter narcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.'

See that, NSA? Somehow the DEA managed to use the ordinary justice system without totally dismantling the Constitution.

Not that I think the War on Drugs (TM) is any less stupid and wasteful than the War on Terrism (TM), but at least we see that we don't need a parallel, secret justice [sic] system to "fight" it.

Re:Important clause there (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738517)

Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

The "ordinary justice system" involves judges in determining whether subpoenas apply. As I understand it, this seems to bypass the usual checks and balances by allowing the would-be prosecutor to be the judge.

Re:Important clause there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738537)

Err, meant "plaintiff" where I said "prosecutor".

Re:Important clause there (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738523)

They are administrative subpoenas, issued by the DEA, and never seen by a judge or a grand jury. These shouldn't be constitutional either.

Re:Important clause there (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#44739547)

There are some important differences between what this is and what the NSA is doing. Probably the most important is that the DEA doesn't have a 'general warrant', that is permission to vacuum up ALL the call detail records.

The 4th amendment was put in place in large part because of a reaction against general warrants issued by the British Crown.

Wikipedia:

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) is an amendment to the United States Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted in response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, a type of general search warrant issued by the British Government and a major source of tension in pre-Revolutionary America.

Re:Important clause there (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44738545)

Not that I think the War on Drugs (TM) is any less stupid and wasteful than the War on Terrism (TM), but at least we see that we don't need a parallel, secret justice [sic] system to "fight" it.

Both are drains on the treasury and both are harmful to society. The "war" on terror castrates the constitution, and the drug laws foster violent crime. Look at Chicago in the 1920s [virginia.edu] and Chicago today. Different illegal drug, same outcomes.

Read further.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738547)

Please read the article further. Your statement is far from correct:

... "administrative subpoenas," those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

Re:Important clause there (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 8 months ago | (#44738605)

Depends on what skilled US lawyers make of the massive private storage, employees sitting with gov agents and the term 'administrative subpoenas'.
Tracking 'the' person over every/any network would be just fine.
Some ongoing massive database of people who have done nothing wrong other than use a US phone... waiting for that administrative subpoena to fish a tiny subset of data out.

Re:Important clause there (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 8 months ago | (#44738665)

we don't need a parallel, secret justice [sic] system

We? There is no "we." You clearly don't need one. Somebody clearly does.

More proof (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738433)

More proof, if any were needed, that plenty of government agencies are entirely out of control and are doing things that are not in the least reasonable in any widely accepted sense of the word.

The DEA in particular exists to push for a world-wide implementation of a (mostly anti-)drug policy that has by now been shown to not work (count the dead in Mexico for one; they're a relatively direct result of US policies enacted through a variety of treaties) and the agency is evidently having great fun... but it's neither improving physical nor recreational-pharmaceutical safety in a meaningful way, nor is what it does justifiable on any ground at all.

But it's clear that the DHS (and TSA, and ICE, and so on) didn't have to reinvent the wheel. They had excellent example to copy from.

President Obama said no spying? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738435)

Per NPR:

"We don't have a domestic spying program," Obama said on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack. ... That information is useful."

President Obama seems to lie every time he opens his mouth.

welcome to the surveillance state (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738437)

War on drugs, war on terror: just scare tactics used to get us to accept a police / surveillance state.

What do you do when the cure is worse than the poison?

War On Drugs NOT worth a police state (1)

ulatekh (775985) | about 8 months ago | (#44738801)

My point exactly. If fighting drug use with the criminal justice system requires that America turn into a fascist police state...then it's not worth it.

Whatever the scourge of drug use, I put it that the fascist police state has caused far more damage to the country than the drugs themselves ever could.

DEA actually PAID a dealers bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738449)

I don't know how often this happened but when I was at Contel Cellular (which got bought by GTE which got bought by Bell Atlantic & became Verizon) there was at least one drug dealer whose service got cut for non-payment & next day DEA called & asked us to turn him back on/they'd pay but don't reflect it on his bill. this was AMPS (analog) days so we weren't letting them tap our network since they could just pick him up on a scanner (most people didn't know back then)

where is the rest? (2)

0dugo0 (735093) | about 8 months ago | (#44738451)

Would love to hear story about how they lost the records from before 1987

Re:where is the rest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738635)

Would love to hear story about how they lost the records from before 1987

Not much to tell. Prior to '87 phone records were a bigger mess than the phone systems. Around '85 the big telcos starting moving to better equipment and systems, and a more consolidated type of network where they could actually start doing it effectively. For the most part, prior to the late 80's records weren't kept very well. Storage medium was expensive and unreliable, systems were shoddy and had little, if any, security. Keep in mind those were the days where you could take over entire trunk groups using the right phone equipment, and phreaking was a big thing.
I'm actually kind of surprised they even go back that far... most telco's don't have anything prior to the mid 90's. The older stuff was often pushed to paper hardcopy every billing cycle, and in the 90's when electronic storage was getting cheap a lot of older records simply got shredded and recycled.

Re:where is the rest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738683)

I think the better question is why is AT&T holding call records for 26 years.

Re:where is the rest? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44738711)

I think the better question is why is AT&T holding call records for 26 years.

I don't know what they do with them; but, whatever it is, they developed a custom programming language [berkeley.edu] to make it easier and more efficient.

"Hancock is a C-based domain-specific language designed to make it easy to read, write, and maintain programs that manipulate large amounts of relatively uniform data. Because Hancock is embedded in C, it inherits all the functionality of C. Valid C programs are also valid Hancock programs, and Hancock programs can use libraries written for C. But Hancock is more than C. In addition to C constructs, Hancock provides domain-specific forms to facilitate large-scale data processing."

Credit Card Purchases (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#44738485)

Don't forget those are record and available to the government from the beginning of time too...

What you buy today legally and innocently may get you a call from the FBI 5 years later to ask you a few questions. ( i have personally seen this happen )

The moral is that *anything* we do with a commercial provider can and will be recorded. Even if is for honest and non invasive reasons today, that doesn't mean it wont be used different ways by other people decades later.

Re:Credit Card Purchases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738995)

It is not hard to imagine that in 10 years all current Slashdot users will be sent to forced labor camps in Alaska.

Re:Credit Card Purchases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739059)

But Im on the No fly list and in the Uk , whar do they expect me to driver there?

Not a Constitutional issue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738565)

Look, it's not a constitutional issue, the government isn't doing this at all. The government is paying someone else to do it, which is completely different.

"Bob Smith? Bob never worked here. I've got last year's 1099 we gave him to prove it."

Diff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738895)

Let's run a diff against both databases.

Oh, that's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44738971)

I am not sure anymore if it was 1992/05/23 or 1992/05/22 I did some phonecalls at about 8pm. I can't find the number anymore. Could you help me?

Oh, it might have been 1993/04/18 17:45 as well. Or 2003/01/14 21:12.

Well, I don't care, just send me the data and I will search it myself.

Thanks in advance

going after drug dealers that are approved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739397)

I used to be a drug user, I know what goes on in the black market. The government has dealers they approve of (let them stay in business, and they get their cut), and dealers they don't approve of. It's simple rule the market by force. It's known the government ships in the drugs, and gets a cut from it. It is invisible money that is gained to fund projects like the reverse engineering of Alien technology. You actually think the technology behind Xbox's and PS3's are made my humans? dumb fucks.

Solving 9/11 is now possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739449)

Due to this new information the Ability to retroactively solve this crime and prosecute those involved. Lets get it done.

Thank goodness .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44739459)

... I still have my lineman's handset. Need to make a questionable call? Just slip into the alley, clip on to some random person's network interface and dial.

Not really surprising at all... (1)

Travis Repine (2861521) | about 8 months ago | (#44739723)

This is to be expected..Hell it was probably by those damn DEA personell who ordered AT&T to do this in the first place, since obviously the government has to listen every damned thing that we say and do!!
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