Prison Phone Company Recorded Over massive 70 Million Attorney-Client Privilege Calls
Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails is said to have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights by recording privileged conversations between inmates and their lawyers.
Over 70 million of phone calls, recorded in 37 states from December 2011 to spring 2014, appear to include as many as 14,000 legally recorded conversations between inmates and attorneys, The Intercept reported on Wednesday.
“This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern US history, and that’s certainly something to be concerned about,” David Fathi, head of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told The Intercept.
“A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not,” he said.
Securus Technologies says on its website that it makes an exception for calls from inmates to their lawyers. The company markets itself to government clients as able to provide a superior phone system — its Secure Call Platform — that allows for broad monitoring and recording of calls. It also promotes its ability to safely store those recordings, making them available within the criminal justice system to authorized users only. Hence, part of the Securus promise is not only that its database is vast, but also that it meets rigorous standards for security.
“We will provide the most technologically advanced audio and video communications platform to allow calls with a high level of security,” reads the company’s Integrity Pledge. “We understand that confidentiality of calls is critical, and we will follow all Federal, State, and Local laws in the conduct of our business.”
The company could have serious legal implications, if the records are genuine. Recordings of prison phone calls are a routine. However, calls to attorneys are a powerful exception, and interception of those calls has often led to convictions vacated or cases being dismissed. Therefore, a clause promising to destroy any records of attorney calls the moment they are discovered are basically included in Securus’ contracts with prisons.
According to Securus, there are no signs that it was hacked. In fact, it believes that “an individual or individuals with authorized access” took and shared the records. Securus also says that it has found “absolutely no evidence” of attorney-client calls being recorded without permission from both parties.
Attorneys are often responsible for giving the government their contact information so their phone numbers can be excluded from recording. It is then prison administrators’ responsibility to add those number to the Securus system, and Securus’ job to keep any recordings it makes secure.
While there have been complaints about Securus in the past recording attorney-client calls, the company says these calls were all recorded with permission. The Texas Civil Rights Project last year filed suit against the company for reportedly recording attorney calls at the Travis County Jail. When the sheriff shared recordings with the county and district attorneys, the practice came to light. Courts have yet to reach a final verdict in the case, as none of The Intercept’s documents seem to bear directly on activities at the Travis County jail.
The source of the documents is still unclear. According to The Intercept, the cache of phone records was leaked to the news organization via its own Secure Drop server, which allows anybody to anonymously blow the whistle. As a result, the method through which the documents were obtained is still not known. Securus says that it is currently working with law enforcement to investigate the leak.
Resource: The Intercept