It looks like the NSA isn’t the only government agency in the United States that’s collecting vast amounts of data on American citizens, the DEA is doing it too. In fact, the DEA has been doing it for more than two decades and on staggering scale, well before the NSA began its own such programs. As a result of this, Human Rights Watch, acting through the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is suing the DEA.
Perhaps the most controversial National Security Agency surveillance program is the one that collects metadata describing Americans’ phone calls with people in other countries. But the NSA didn’t pioneer this practice — it appears that similar data was collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration for more than two decades. USA Today reports that the DEA collected information about every phone call made between the United States and 116 other countries from around the world. These efforts started more than a decade before the September 11 attacks led the NSA to create a similar program that used such information in the war on terror. The program itself was revealed to the public by the Department of Justice in January. But the USA Today report is the first to show the program’s scope and to explain why the collection of this data was so problematic. The program is said to have been shut down in 2013 — yet some aren’t convinced it’s truly gone.