Report: Federal and local drug agents access massive AT&T call database

AT&T (NYSE:T) has worked with federal and local counternarcotics agents for at least six years by giving them routine access, via subpoenas, to a database that contains the records of decades of Americans' phone calls, as part of an effort to thwart domestic drug trafficking. According to a New York Times report, which cited presentation slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the government pays AT&T to put its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. AT&T workers sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and give them access to the database that includes phone data from as far back as 1987, the report said. The partnership, called the Hemisphere Project, covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch, not just those made by AT&T customers.

The Obama administration acknowledged the extent of the project, but told the NYT that it has proved especially useful in finding criminals who throw away mobile phones frequently to avoid government tracking. Further, the administration argues the program uses practices and investigative procedures that are regularly used in criminal cases. The phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government. "While we cannot comment on any particular matter, we, like all other companies, must respond to valid subpoenas issued by law enforcement," AT&T told the NYT. Representatives from Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) declined to comment on whether their companies were aware of Hemisphere or participated in that program or similar ones, the report said. Article