Cybersecurity

Hack reveals widespread prison recordings of attorney-inmate calls

One of the leading providers of prison phone services has been recording calls between inmates and their attorneys, according to an anonymous hacker who turned over some 70 million phone records to The Intercept.

{mosads}In an apparent act of “hacktivism,” the hacker reportedly leaked the records out of concern that the provider, Securus Technologies, was violating inmates’ constitutional rights by recording their conversations with legal counsel.

Recording prison phone calls is a routine practice, with the distinct exception of calls between inmates and their attorneys. Private communications between attorneys and their clients is a long-established principle of the U.S. justice system

According to The Intercept’s analysis of the hacked documents, at least 14,000 of the recorded conversations were between inmates and attorneys.

“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,” David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told the publication. “A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not.”

The phone records cover 37 states and span a two and a half year period from December 2011 to spring 2014.

Securus says on its website that it does not record calls between inmates and their attorneys. “All calls, except to their Attorney of Record, are subject to monitoring and recording,” the site reads.

The implications if the records are genuine could be significant. In a 1966 Supreme Court case, the justices vacated a conviction because the state had recorded conversations between the defendant and his attorney.

Attorneys across the country have sought to use confidential phone calls that were recorded as a means to dismissal. In one 2008 case, lawyers asked a trial judge to dismiss murder charges against Mark Jeffrey Brown, who at the time was facing a possible death penalty.

Experts say that the onus is on attorneys to make sure the calls are confidential, however.

“If a call was recorded because the attorney or client failed to put a phone number on the do-not-record list … then the state is off the hook — a prisoner can’t sue for damages, or seek to have his or her criminal charges dismissed (although the government would still be prohibited from listening to or using the content of the call),” The Intercept wrote.

The publication cautioned that the 14,000 calls that it verified were between inmates and their attorneys are likely only the tip of the iceberg.

“That 14,000 figure is likely an underestimate because it does not include calls to attorney cellphone numbers,” the report says. “In other words, the 14,000 attorney calls are potentially just a small subset of the attorney-client calls that were hacked.”

“In short, it turns out that Securus isn’t so secure.”

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