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The U.S. Justice Department kept a secret database of U.S. calls made to and from foreign countries, a new court filing and officials familiar with the program say.

The filing, which was in regard to a man accused of conspiring to illegally export electronics to Iran, did not say how many or which countries were involved.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Drug Enforcement Administration official said in the three-page filing that the agency has long used administrative subpoenas—not federal court orders—to collect the metadata of U.S. calls to and from foreign countries “that were determined to have a demonstrated nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities.’’

The program began in the 1990s, according to people familiar with its operation, and was shut down in August of 2013, amid reports about the DEA gathering phone records in other ways.

A Justice Department official said the database was deleted and hasn’t been searched since 2013, and said the DEA is no longer collecting bulk telephone records from U.S. phone companies.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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