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Feds used anti-drug trafficking program to track Americans’ international calls for 20 years: report

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The U.S. government started keeping secret records of international phone calls made by Americans in 1992 in a program intended to combat drug trafficking, USA Today reported on Tuesday, citing current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials.

The program, run by the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration, was halted by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013 amid the fallout from revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA data collection, the paper reported.

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The DEA program was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime, USA Today said.

The program amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls made from the United States to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels’ distribution networks in the United States, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers, the paper said.

The program did not intercept the content of calls but it did record the phone numbers and when they were dialed.

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When the data collection began, agents sought to limit its use mainly to drug investigations and turned away requests for access from the FBI and the NSA, the paper reported.

Agents allowed searches of the data in terrorism cases, including the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people in 1995, helping to rule out theories linking the attack to foreign terrorists, the paper reported. They allowed even broader use after Sept. 11, 2001, it said.

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush told USA Today the DEA “is no longer collecting bulk telephony metadata from U.S. service providers.”

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Instead, the DEA assembles a list of the telephone numbers it suspects may be tied to drug trafficking and sends electronic subpoenas to telephone companies seeking logs of international telephone calls linked to those numbers, the paper said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh)


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‘We’ve entered a shame-free zone’: CNN’s Sciutto appalled by Trump’s ‘mind-boggling’ G7 corruption

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CNN's Jim Sciutto on Friday did not mince words when talking about President Donald Trump's decision to host next year's G7 summit at his own golf course in Doral, Florida.

During a segment about the president's multiple corruption scandals, Sciutto described Trump's G7 gambit as the president "explicitly, publicly steering a taxpayer-funded government contract to [his] own business." He then asked former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti to comment on why this scandal might get Trump into hot legal water.

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Deadly Turkish air strikes Friday shattered an hours-old US-brokered deal to stop Ankara's military offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

The ceasefire announced late Thursday was meant to provide a pause for the evacuation of Kurdish fighters from the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain and other areas Turkey wants to control along its border with Syria.

The five-day suspension looked designed to help Turkey achieve its main territorial goals without fighting but its Syrian proxies continued to clash with Kurdish fighters Friday and an air strike killed five civilians.

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Former Trump pal Donny Deutsch explains the president’s gamble on impeachment

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MSNBC's Donny Deutsch has a theory about his old pal President Donald Trump and his latest strategy to wriggle out of trouble.

The "Morning Joe" contributor suspects the president, whom he used to know from their days in New York City, believes impeachment is inevitable, but he's confident that Republican senators won't remove him from office.

"Rev, I'm seeing a little bit of a different show here," Deutsch told the Rev. Al Sharpton. "You and I know Trump pretty well, or used to know Trump pretty well. I don't think there's any chance Mick Mulvaney went out there on his own."

Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, admitted during a press briefing that he held up congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in an effort to press the country to investigate a conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 election.

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