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Edited by Christian Lowe | Contact

"Every Call Ever Made" in NSA Database

We've known for years that the NSA sits on Himayalan storehouses of information - untold millions of phone calls and e-mails, both inside the United States and out.

eavesdrop1.jpgBut, until recently, those databases didn't seem particularly intimidating, because NSA snoops were sworn to purge the identities of American citizens, as soon as they got caught in the surveillance net. As one former signal intelligence specialist told me a few months back:

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."

Now we know different. And that's one major reason why this USA Today revelation so unnerving.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T;, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY. [Qwest turned 'em down, Glenn Greenwald notes.]

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added...

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case.

No wonder former NSA chief Bobby Ray Inman says the program was "not authorized."

Now, some people might find some small measure of comfort in the fact that this particular NSA effort is only looking at calling patterns -- not the contents of the calls themselves. Don't be. Back in January, we learned that this data-mining is directly leading to a "flood" of tips, given to the FBI, virtually all of which have led "to dead ends or innocent Americans."

UPDATE 11:08 AM: Slashdot has a great little primer on "trap and trace" systems, like the on the NSA is using here. The site also points out that the NSA has effectively squashed a Justice Department inquiry into its eavesdropping.

UPDATE 12:30 AM: Sen. Arlen Specter has a history of talking tough -- and then getting rolled by the White House. Let's see if this time is any different. "Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said today that he would call telephone executives to testify about a newspaper report describing a massive effort by the National Security Agency to compile records of phone calls." Other lawmakers are pissed, too.


This doesn't surprise me all that much ... it's kind of typical NSA practice:

Gather enormous amounts of data, and then process it and sift it and see what pops up (or look for specific things).

Also, the collusion of the telecoms with the NSA (or NSA predecessors) dates back to the 30s.


Posted by: cenk at October 15, 2008 05:34 PM

no no I don't

Posted by: cenk at October 15, 2008 05:32 PM

The people who could have prevented 9-11 and stopped the 2nd Iraq War and this upcoming Iran conflict; "The NSA" are a bunch of Jackasses and Pussys. They spy on Americans but
remember what they are, they are Fat, Stupid, But kissing, Ugly, Lazy, Government and Military workers who are underpaid, overworked and understaffed. They watched Walker, Ames, Hanson and Pollard and barely caught them! These people could not catch a cold and my taxes are paying their salaries, ouch! My trust is in God, not in these fools! PS Where is Usama? National Super A.holes! And please stop calling the 1-900-sex #s at work!Thanks.

Posted by: Jaye at May 12, 2006 08:19 PM

Why can't the president come out and say; "We have people in our country who are using our infrastructure to plot against us. Because of that we need to compile data on how they talk. This data collection will go on for a period of three years, and if we still have not elimiated the threat, then we will re-examine the policy to see if it is effective."

I think that would be much more productive than pretending it's not going on.

Posted by: Will at May 11, 2006 04:12 PM

This doesn't surprise me all that much ... it's kind of typical NSA practice:

Gather enormous amounts of data, and then process it and sift it and see what pops up (or look for specific things).

Also, the collusion of the telecoms with the NSA (or NSA predecessors) dates back to the 30s.

Posted by: Sarge at May 11, 2006 11:32 AM

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