NSA Records, Rewinds, and Reviews All Telephone Calls of Foreign Countries

From WaPo.

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

This cover slide comes from a weekly briefing deck by the NSA’s Special Source Operations team, which is responsible for deploying and maintaining bulk collection methods.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

……Telephone calls are often thought to be more ephemeral and less suited than text for processing, storage and search. And there are indications that the call-recording program has been hindered by the NSA’s limited capacity to store and transmit bulky voice files.

In the first year of its deployment, a program officer wrote that the project “has long since reached the point where it was collecting and sending home far more than the bandwidth could handle.”

But not to worry, the NSA has cloud-based collection systems and a gargantuan new “mission data repository” in its ‘Cyber Command’ in Utah.

The trouble with this is that it also captures content from innocent Americans who telephone, visit and work in the target country. That “target country” could be an ally with no ties to terrorism.
They continue to use indiscriminate bulk collection methods to gather metadata on everyone, without specific focus and consideration.

And they’re still doing it here.


If any of the national security agencies in this country have bona fide intelligence on terrorist threats in this country, and believe me there are plenty, then by all means, I want them to use every resource they have to get so far up their ass, they’ll feel like they’re getting a colonoscopy.

There needs to be strict, common sense oversight based on verified indications and warnings.  The problem is, any power created for clandestine use can be abused.

The erosion of America’s civil and personal liberties has taken on evil proportions.  Obama’s abuse of power in particular, is unprecedented.

It’s not just the government, private omnipresent companies like Google are doing the same thing. They collaborate with government agencies in exchange for political favors.

The line between security and liberty has been crossed. It’s up to the citizens of America to kick their asses back over that line.


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