"NSA program 'reaches into the past' to retrieve, replay phone calls." -- Washington Post, March 18, 2014.
Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani report on the latest Edward Snowden bombshell:
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.You can't blame this operation -- code-named MYSTIC -- on Evil Overlord George W. Bush. It started in 2009, early in the Obama administration, at about the same time he was boasting so stridently about the Most Transparent Administration Ever that he eventually got a special transparency award behind closed doors.
Oops. This latest Snowden revelation should rank right up there with "if you like your health plan you can keep it" but it won't. Congress will not mess with the security state, despite the best theatrical efforts of Dianne Feinstein. And if anybody points at the prez and starts with the taunt "Liar liar, Mom Jeans on fire!" it won't be the Republicans. (well, maybe it'll be Rand Paul, but that's about it.)
The Post, unfortunately, partially acquiesced to Deep State demands by agreeing not to reveal the "target"country (ies) where the spooks are busily recording and collecting conversations. But, the article continues,
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.They don't say where the actual audio recordings are being stored, but that behemoth of a secret building out in the Utah desert sounds about right. Because all those trillions of words and the billions of voices that use them have to be stashed someplace, I reckon. We can't just have them floating free up in the clouds, where they constitute a terrorist threat to the bulked-up bureaucracy! Dangling conversations are a threat to our Freedoms, after all.
And moreover, the spooks retort, the Post's reporting on their sociopathic voice collections is itself a threat to our freedoms. In an emailed statement, NSA factotum Vanee Vines complained that “continuous and selective reporting of specific techniques and tools used for legitimate U.S. foreign intelligence activities is highly detrimental to the national security of the United States and of our allies, and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.”
You can say that again, VeeVee. Journalism in the public interest does indeed place at risk the security and stalking capabilities of your bureaucracy, not to mention the untold billions of taxpayers dollars feeding its insatiable appetite.
So I'll say it again. Either your elected reps pledge to defund the spy agencies and repeal the Patriot Act, or they can go pay somebody to hold their place in the unemployment line. (It is beneath the dignity of millionaires to use their own bodies to wait in any line.) Or more realistically, they can go to K Street or a corporate-funded university or think tank and work directly for the surveillance state as we naively vote in their corporate-funded replacements.