WIRED Analysis Reveals Disturbing Details of Government Surveillance Program, Highlights Urgent Need for Reform

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New reporting from WIRED just revealed disturbing new details about the Hemisphere Project, a carefully hidden surveillance program that amounts to mass domestic surveillance of Americans’ phone records, location information, and associations.

The access to trillions of records that Hemisphere reportedly provides, without a warrant, to virtually any law enforcement or intelligence agency, is “unmatched” and appears to exceed even the NSA’s scandalous and shuttered Call Detail Records program. Today’s reporting reveals for the first time that Hemisphere can be used for any reason and that in 2022 the White House restarted an opaque funding arrangement to facilitate this secret mass surveillance program, in spite of intervening, contradictory Supreme Court rulings. Hemisphere is operated without court orders, authorization, or oversight and violates Americans’ reasonable expectation of privacy in their Fourth Amendment-protected location information. This surveillance impacts not only the targeted individuals, but also everyone they have communicated with as well. This ‘two-hop’ surveillance threatens entire communities and constitutionally protected activities.

The new information provided in today’s reporting highlights the urgency to reform government surveillance. Demand Progress urges Congress to act without delay to protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties by passing the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA).

In response to the WIRED reporting, Demand Progress Policy Director Sean Vitka issued the following statement:

“Hemisphere appears to be Exhibit A for mass domestic surveillance, the data broker loophole, and even parallel construction. These new details add up to a horrifying picture that proves the need for Congress to close the Data Broker Loophole and enact comprehensive privacy protections for Americans before reauthorizing any spying powers, most notably Section 702 of FISA. The fact that a White House office — one that is actively fighting FISA reform — restarted funding for Hemisphere in 2022, in spite of recent Supreme Court precedent, is scandalous.”

The widely endorsed GSRA is crucial legislation that addresses the lawless warrantless surveillance of Americans by establishing comprehensive privacy protections for people in the United States. The legislation would close the loopholes that the government exploits to conduct warrantless mass surveillance. The GSRA is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.

Additional resources: GSRA resource hub, one-page summary, a section-by-section breakdown, and list of organizational endorsements.

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