For years the DEA has worked in collaboration with AT&T to monitor over 4 billion phone calls a day in an attempt to combat the illegal drug trade, according to the New York Times.
This monitoring – which surpasses that of the National Security Agency (NSA), which has recently come under fire for similar conduct – is part of a program dubbed the “Hemisphere Project”, which is a “partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported”, which involves “an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.”
According to the Times; “The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987”, they continue, “[The Hemisphere Project] covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers”.
The revelation of this project’s existence immediately brings a trove of constitutional questions regarding its legality to the forefront; it’s also a key example of how the drug war can effect those who have no relationship with illegal drugs, given the massive scope of the program’s monitoring.