by Pixeleen Mistral on 03/09/13 at 12:07 am
How much does AT&T profit from data mining for the DEA?
After reading the New York Times' revelation that the US government pays AT&T employees to sit with DEA and local law enforcement agents and query a phone record database "that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls" and and adds four billion call records to the database every day, I began wondering what all this costs.
Based on public records, it appears that AT&T has been paid approximately $900,000/year by the Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Department over each of the last 5 years under a sole source agreement for services associated with "Operation Hemisphere". AP reports that the "federal government pays the salaries of four AT&T employees", but only one of these employees is in Texas, so the total cost of Operation Hemisphere remains unclear. Is AT&T also charging $900,000/year for each of the other 3 employees? In any case, there seems to be plenty of room for profit.
One of the Hemisphere training slides published by the NYT shows a total of 2770 requests for 2012.
How confident can one be that AT&T is billing $900,000/year in Texas?
Experienced Internet Detectives agree - reading through the comments on most web sites risks permanently lowering your opinion of the collective intelligence of the public, but this risk is offset by an occasional surprisingly insightful gem. So I was delighted to come across a comment that points out Harris County budget public hearing notifications mention Operation Hemisphere -- and costs.
Spending a few minutes with a google search tailored to look through the http://www.co.harris.tx.us site for mention of Operation Hemisphere uncovered a wealth of public meeting notices with budget statements running back to 2008 -- and a neatly symmetric pattern of grants to the Sheriff's Department and matching sole source payments for professional services to AT&T.
While the NYT claims the formerly secret program reaches back 26 years, it appears AT&T is in a position to supply uniquely valuable information dating back decades, put the NSA's collect-it-all ambitions to shame, and profit handsomely while doing so.
Unfortunately, this may also damage AT&T's reputation as pointed questions about 4th Amendment rights are raised, and an arrangement where records are released via administrative subpoena rather than via a judicial warrant could lead some to conclude that this is another example of unconstitutional government overreach. Certainly Tyler Durden over at ZeroHedge is not alone in concluding "America is now officially an authoritarian state, in which personal privacy no longer exists in any capacity, in which the public-private complex collaborates against its citizens without express prior public knowledge or permission".
Harris County details grants and sole source professional service payments
|01/22/08||sole source services||$944,321||AT&T for purchase of service associated with Operation Hemisphere for the Sheriff’s Department for the period ending July 31, 2008 at an approximate cost of $944,321.|
|10/07/08||grant||$950,000||Accept additional 2008 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Grant funds from the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the amount of $950,000 to support the Houston Intelligence Support Center’s Operation Hemisphere to interdict illegal drug trafficking.|
|03/10/09||sole source services||$910,705||AT&T for intelligence services provided to the Intelligence Support Center, Operation Hemisphere Program, for the Sheriff's Department for the period of August 1, 2008-July 31, 2009 at an estimated cost of $910,705.|
|06/09/09||grant||$1,226,649||Accept 2009 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grant funds in the total amount of $1,226,649 for the Major Drug Squad, Houston Money Laundering, Houston Intelligence Support Center, Truck, Air, Rail, and Port, Gang and Non-Traditional Gang Squad, and Houston Intelligence Support Center-Operation Hemisphere initiatives.|
|01/12/10||sole source services||$391,172||AT&T in the amount of $391,172 for Operation Hemisphere investigative services for the Sheriff's Department.|
|05/11/10||grant||$450,000||Accept an amendment to an agreement with the Office of National Drug Control Policy for 2009 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area supplemental grant funds in the amount of $450,000 for the Houston Intelligence Support Center-Operation Hemisphere Initiative.|
|07/27/10||sole source services||$469,407||AT&T in the amount of $469,407 for Operation Hemisphere investigative services for the Sheriff’s Department.|
|09/14/10||grant||$924,500||Accept 2010 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Grant funds in the amount of $924,500 for the Operation Hemisphere initiative.|
|02/08/11||sole source services||$924,500||AT&T sole source for Operation Hemisphere, formerly Hudson Hawk, investigative services for the Sheriff’s Department in the amount of $924,500.|
|01/24/12||grant||$666,667||Accept High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Grant funds in the additional amount of $666,667 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Houston Intelligence Support Center – Operation Hemisphere Initiative.|
|05/08/12||sole source services||$762,111||AT&T in the amount of $762,111 for Operation Hemisphere investigative services for the Sheriff’s Department for the period ending June 30, 2012.|
|11/06/12||grant||$373,795||An amendment to an agreement with the Office of National Drug Control Policy for additional High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Grant funds in the amount of $373,795 for the Houston Intelligence Support Center-Operation Hemisphere Initiative|
|01/29/13||sole source service||$373,795||AT&T in the amount of $373,795 sole source for Operation Hemisphere investigative services for the Sheriff’s Department for the period ending June 30, 2013.|