It appears that the NSA’s surveillance program was modeled after the precursor USTO, because it monitored almost every American’s calls from the US to other countries. It was a joint initiative by the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement. USTO would ask carriers for phone metadata. The group was only dissolved after Edward Snowden went public with the NSA’s secrets in 2013. The DEA didn’t allow anyone else, not even the FBI or the NSA to access its logs in the beginning. But over time, it gave other law enforcement agencies access to its database, especially after 9/11. Eventually, in an effort to keep this program hidden, the DEA’s Special Operations Division started passing on intel to prosecutors and feds as “tips” that they could act on. After USTO was put to a stop after Snowden’s leak, all records were reportedly purged — DEA agents had to start getting call records via more difficult means. Now, they have to send carriers subpoenas daily to get those logs, and only for numbers already linked to drug trade or other crimes.
April 12, 2015