“NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay 100% of phone calls”/ Washington Post

And now from the Snowden cache is the story of how it ain’t only the metadata that is vacuumed up by NSA and saved for posterity.

No, it is the complete audio recording of calls that is being obtained and stored.  The program allegedly began in 2009, but according to the WaPo, calls are only being stored for a month. However, with the cheapness of digital storage and a huge electronic vault already established in Bluffdale, Utah, why bother ever pressing the delete button?

The story is confusing.  Where is this taking place?  Are all domestic calls being recorded? In which countries is NSA collecting all the calls? The WaPo is coy on this:

“… At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.”

Here is the meat (a very small portion) revealed by the Post:

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…

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.

Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch — meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.” 

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