Drug Agents Plumb Vast Database Of Call Records

SEATTLE (AP) – Newly released documents show that for at least six years, drug agents have had near-immediate access to billions of phone call records dating back decades.

Officials have taken pains to keep the collaboration with Dallas-based AT&T secret.

The program, first reported Monday by The New York Times, is called the Hemisphere Project. The project partnered AT&T with federal and local drug officials. It’s paid for by the federal government, and it allows investigators armed with subpoenas to mine the company’s vast database to help track down drug traffickers who frequently switch cellphones to avoid detection.

That’s a different approach from that of the National Security Agency, which has come under fire for maintaining its own collections of call records.

The Associated Press independently obtained a series of slides detailing the Hemisphere program.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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