The American Police State: Massive Expansion of Domestic Spying under Obama
by Niall Green
July 10, 2012
Cell phone companies reported that US government bodies, including federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and courts, made at least 1.3 million demands for subscriber information in 2011.
According to a report in the New York Times, telecommunications companies routinely hand over thousands of pieces of information every day about their customers, including the contents of text messages and caller locations. One of the largest carriers, AT&T, responds to more than 700 government requests for information each day, while another major cell phone company, Sprint, reported that it had received an average of 1,500 government requests each day last year.
Nine telecom companies reported evidence of this pervasive state surveillance of their customers in response to an inquiry from a congressional committee investigating the increased use of phone tapping and other forms of data mining. The Times reports that because of incomplete record-keeping, the actual number of government demands for cell phone users’ private information was almost certainly far higher than the 1.3 million figure reported to Congress.
The cell phone companies reported that government agencies have increased their requests for subscriber information at a rate of 12 percent to 16 percent per year over the past five years. Many of the demands for cell phone information are not accompanied by court orders or legal subpoenas, meaning that even the nominal safeguards against warrantless invasions of privacy are now routinely flouted.
State surveillance of cell phone use is now so pervasive that there was actually a fall in the number of police requests for wiretapping warrants made to US courts last year.
The level of US government spying of cell phone use would be the envy of any police state, and marks the American population as one of the most surveilled in the world.
“Whether they realize it or not, Americans are carrying tracking devices with them wherever they go,” said American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Christopher Calabrese in response to the revelations to Congress from the cell phone carriers. “The cell phone data of innocent Americans is almost certainly swept up in these requests,” he added.