The Department of Justice was keeping a detailed record of American calls long before more recent NSA programs, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. The database is referred to in a court filing obtained by the Journal as part of a larger Iranian exporting case, incidentally revealing a decades-long program that captured phone records for every call in and out of the United States. The program began in the 90s, continuing until it was shut down in August of 2013 amid reports of DEA phone record collection. While the program was hinted at in earlier reports, this is the first time it has been publicly acknowledged by the government.
The program pre-dates the NSA's all-encompassing phone record database, established in the early 00s, but gathered significantly fewer records, ignoring domestic calls entirely. President Obama had previously announced plans to dismantle the NSA's phone records database, although those plans have stalled in the months since. The Justice Department has consistently pushed for more extensive access to phone records, arguing the records are crucial to building prosecutions.