Constitutional Law

Report: Hacked jail phone records show 14,000 calls to lawyers were taped

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An analysis of a massive trove of phone records from a major provider of prison and jail services found at least 14,000 taped calls between inmates and attorneys, the Intercept reports.

Its review of the purported Securus Technologies records–which were sent to the Intercept by an anonymous hacker–raises questions about potential violations of attorney-client privilege, the Intercept says. The Intercept, which is an online magazine launched last year by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, reviewed the roughly 70 million phone records with the help of database software.

At least 800 of the numbers called were law firm offices, and the publication claims that the actual number of attorney-client calls was likely higher because attorney cellphone numbers weren’t readily identifiable. The records concerned phone calls made between December 2011 and spring 2014 in dozens of states.

The article also notes that the availability of the hacked information—which includes not only phone numbers and inmate identities but links to actual recordings of the calls—raises security and privacy concerns.

“This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history, and that’s certainly something to be concerned about,” said director David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. “A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not.”

Although recording jail phone calls from inmates is standard practice, procedures are supposed to provide for excluding attorney-client privileged calls. Arrangements to do so, however, generally must be made in advance, by giving lawyers’ phone numbers to those administering the phone-call-recording project at issue, the Intercept notes. Hence, it isn’t clear whether recorded calls represent a failure to block recording of calls to known attorney numbers or a lack of notification.

A spokesman for Securus did not immediately respond to a Wednesday phone message from the ABA Journal.

See also: “Recorded jail phone calls violate 6th Amendment and cost us money, attorneys say in lawsuit”

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