Is the US government spying on Americans?

The Countermeasure
3 min readNov 29, 2023

On November 20, 2023, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden released a statement, demanding that Attorney General Merrick Garland make public documents that pertain to the phone surveillance program known as Data Analytic Services (DAS), but colloquially as Hemisphere.

The program, according to a press release on Wyden’s website, “allows federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement agencies to request searches of trillions of U.S. phone records, usually without warrants.”

Documents pertaining the the Hemisphere program are not classified, but according to Senator Wyden are labelled as “Law Enforcement Sensitive” in an effort to withhold them from the American public.

Wyden made clear that he has “serious concerns about the legality of this surveillance program” and that exposing the program is of public interest, mostly on the grounds of containing any further pressure to expand government surveillance.

Another one of Wyden’s concerns is how the program is funded. He specifically mentions in his press release that the funding is through a grant and a third-party partnership with law enforcement. The partnership then pays AT&T — the massive multinational telecommunications company — for phone records as far back as 1987. And that information is extracted from what public records about the program exist.

To add a layer of complexity, it should also be noted that according to WIRED, the White House has contributed more than $6 million to fund the program.

Wyden made it a point to mention that because of this funding loophole, Hemisphere is not subject to Privacy Impact Assessments by federal monitors.

You can read his full press release here:

The briefly mentioned WIRED article also eludes to the fact that the program, which is a massive stream of revenue for AT&T, is being used under the guise of anti-drug and anti-human trafficking operations. However, data that was stolen in a 2020 hack revealed that Law Enforcement agencies were using data to spy on Americans not suspected of any crimes or acts of terror, including children.

The Obama administration allegedly shut down funding for the program in 2013, but that is when the funding loopholes were created and the program became a private endeavor. Funding resumed under Trump in 2021 but was stopped. It was then resumed for a third time by the Biden admin.

Read WIRED’s post here:

There is a growing concern, in a world that is becoming more and more digitized, that governments are becoming more prone to the illegal surveillance of their citizenry. In places like China, for example, the status of living under a police state is normalized. But in the West, the concern remains. In the UK, for example, there is a controversial street camera program that has come under fire. You can read more about it, as well as the digital prison, below.

The only question I would like to wager to America’s politicians and law enforcement personnel is this: Has the mass surveillance of ordinary Americans prevented any major terrorist attack, violent mass protests, acts of malice, or school or public mass shootings?

In a world where the news cycle often reveals law enforcement awareness of tragedies before they occur, I would say the mass surveillance of Americans is trending towards tyranny and not security.

Thank you, Senator Wyden.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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The Countermeasure

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