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Communications Government The Courts United States

No Upper Bound On Phone Record Collection, Says NSA 238

Posted by timothy
from the don't-write-a-blank-check-to-the-government dept.
PCWorld reports that "[A] U.S. surveillance court has given the National Security Agency no limit on the number of U.S. telephone records it collects in the name of fighting terrorism, the NSA director said Thursday. The NSA intends to collect all U.S. telephone records and put them in a searchable 'lock box' in the interest of national security, General Keith Alexander, the NSA's director, told U.S. senators." But don't worry; it's just metadata, until it isn't. (Your row in the NSA database may already be getting cozy in its nice new home in Utah.)
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No Upper Bound On Phone Record Collection, Says NSA

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  • Foil hats? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:06PM (#44964717)

    Shinny side out or in?

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:49PM (#44965683)

      The shiny side should face what you're trying to protect.

      If you don't want them reading your brain waves, the shiny side goes on the inside to prevent the brain waves from leaking out.

      If you don't want them using mind control beams on you, the shiny side goes on the outside to keep the mind control beams out.

      If you're worried about both, then you need to go double layer with a shiny side facing both in and out.

      If you think the molemen might be involved, then you should put a layer in the bottoms of your shoes, and maybe in your underwear.

      • Re:Foil hats? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RussR42 (779993) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @07:29PM (#44966343)

        If you're worried about both, then you need to go double layer with a shiny side facing both in and out.

        But should you put the shiny sides against each other or have one shiny side against your head and the other facing out?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @09:10PM (#44966951)

          You can't have the shiny sides facing each other, jeez. The mind control waves will become trapped between the two shiny faces and cause massive heat build up. This is basic tin foil hat theory guys, come on.

      • Re:Foil hats? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by brxndxn (461473) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @11:20PM (#44967545)

        How the fuck is this funny? We have a direct quote from the director of the NSA and you make a joke alluding to conspiracy theorists like they're the crazy ones. The thing that is crazy here is that the dumb useless clueless fucktarded people like you would rather make light of something and continue to act like something is nothing than actually effect some positive change..

        The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land.. You would probably make fun of that too.

        • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

          How the fuck is this funny?

          I'll second that. This is pretty serious shit and aside from the fact that the NSA and the US gov broke every damn law on the book there are other concerning issues to address here:

          - how do we deal with government entities, now and in the future, who operate under secret laws not open to public knowledge?

          - are we to disregard the constitution and it's amendments now if the we allow the NSA and related bodies to walk on this one?

          - what are the laws we want regarding privatized corporations who conduct "busin

      • Like I need a reason to wear foil underpants. Crispy!
    • It doesn't matter which side in or out if you've got Master Origami Skills.

      Instead of a hat, Simply fold foil into a meta material for the desired frequency;
      You'll know you've got it right when your teeth stop singing.

  • Intends to? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:07PM (#44964729)

    The NSA intends to collect all U.S. telephone records and put them in a searchable 'lock box' in the interest of national security

    No, they don't intend to do this at all, they already do collect all of it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142) *
      Yeah it's just metadata. Like if I rob a bank electronically and put the money in my bank account. It's just metadata, numbers, an electronic "bank balance". It's only real when I go to the ATM... right.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      They describe it wrong however: It is to secure the nation against its citizens, least they develop some ideas of their own.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:09PM (#44964745)

    But don't worry; it's just metadata

    Metadata Equals Surveillance [schneier.com]

    • by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:48PM (#44965667) Journal
      Perhaps some enterprising jounalist, or the EFF could make some FOIA requests for phone records from the NSA, Whitehouse, etc.. Let the government say that the data is private!
      • by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:32PM (#44966001)

        Perhaps some enterprising jounalist, or the EFF could make some FOIA requests for phone records from the NSA, Whitehouse, etc.. Let the government say that the data is private!

        They said their data is private.

        Not anyone else's.

        They'll put you or I in prison or kill us for obtaining their data.

        Strat

        • by ogdenk (712300)

          They'll put you or I in prison or kill us for obtaining their data.

          Yet if a few threaten to do the same to them, they use it as an excuse to completely wipe their ass with the US Constitution and get EVEN MORE funding for their illegal, unconstitutional, disgusting, fascist tactics. Did I mention immoral and creepy?

          If this is what i

    • Of course, the NSA is investing billions of dollars in collecting and storing this pointless "metadata". Somehow collecting this stuff will improve your safety even though it is of no use. How gullable do they think we are?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:12PM (#44964765)

    Turns out the tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorists were pretty much spot on.

    • by coastwalker (307620) <acoastwalkerNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:29PM (#44964979) Homepage

      Not only that but all that cold war stuff was a complete waste of time - we are the Soviet Union.

      • by gewalker (57809)

        Well maybe, but at least we have better consumer goods that we by from communist China.

      • Not only that but all that cold war stuff was a complete waste of time - we are the Soviet Union.

        If the US really is the USSR, then that is very unfortunate for you, comrade. Under the terms of Article 58-12 [cyberussr.com] of the Soviet penal code I now have no choice but to denounce you, comrade, for violations of Article 58-10 [cyberussr.com], and possibly Article 58-4 [cyberussr.com] of the Soviet penal code by engaging in libelous propaganda against the glorious achievements of the American revolution by comparing it to what is now a failed state. The normal punishment would be deprivation of liberty for not less than 6 months, but since the

      • by brxndxn (461473)

        Maybe the joke is on us.. We are constantly told how free we are.. But what happens to anyone in our society that actually tried to effect change? What happens to the honest journalists or the honest politicians? How's our incarceration rate?

  • by Deflagro (187160) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:14PM (#44964791)

    I'm more worried about what's in the columns.... Metadata my ass.

  • by http (589131) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:15PM (#44964809) Homepage Journal
    I've never seen a civil war up close before.
    • by intermodal (534361) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:32PM (#44965017) Homepage Journal

      It's not a pretty idea. But even more frightening is what history tells us about the end-result of governments that believe in their own unlimited powers.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        On that note the Tzar had a truly awesome intelligence service that could give plenty of detail of the oncoming tsunami that wiped out that regime from all directions. It wasn't just Lenin's bunch that they had to worry about.
    • by 0racle (667029)
      Never going to happen in the US.
      • Never going to happen in the US.

        The fluoride does a pretty good job, yes?

      • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:19PM (#44965435) Journal

        I've never seen a civil war up close before

        . Never going to happen in the US.

        Yeah. There's no precedent for that.

        • For all intensive purposes, "whom" is no longer a word. That begs the question, "who cares"?

          What's an intensive purpose?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:17PM (#44964837)
    Given we "the public" know they have networking gear installed to snoop all telecomm traffic, the NSA is already logging all of the call data and metadata. The question is, how often is low value data deleted? You can bet high value data is stored indefinitely.

    Think about it. The director of the NSA says "run a query on X number" and show me everything we know. The staff runs the metadata query and shows the list. You know the next command from the director will be, "play those calls."

    Anyone dumb enough to believe the NSA isn't recording the entire call is either A) a moron, B) living under a boulder 5 miles in a cave or C) most trusting person in this galaxy.

  • Stalin-type Purges (Score:5, Informative)

    by silentbozo (542534) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:20PM (#44964875) Journal
    How long before the next incoming majority party decides to use the NSA data to clean house? Just to make sure that their government is free of ties to terrorism, foreign governments, and corruption, of course... and to ensure that everyone is loyal and pure of ideology.
    • by memnock (466995) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:40PM (#44966047)

      "... Just to make sure that their government is free of ties to terrorism... "

      Do you mean terrorism like the kind that involves killing [cnn.com] unknowing bystanders [huffingtonpost.com]? The U.S. doesn't do that. Oh wait... [cbsnews.com]

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Depends really on the CIA and other mil/gov agencies and the emerging political power of the NSA.
      Recall the status, career move, standing, funding and technical role the NSA was seen to be in the 1990's?
      Note the new standing, role, political access and color of law domestic ability over the past ~10 years?
      A lot of other contractors, mil, gov have had to share/lost their political power due to the unexpected climb of the NSA.
      What does a purge in the USA feel like? A massive flow of raw data to the prot
    • by gweihir (88907)

      You have it wrong. As the NSA has dirt on everybody, they will be the ones controlling that government. The NSA may not yet have fully realized what they can do, but I am sure it is only a question of time.

  • Eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:20PM (#44964879) Journal

    Don't worry they can only fit a few hundred terabytes in the little box they drew on the blueprint marked "Datacenter" that they let everyone see to prove they weren't storing a whole lot of data there. Don't mind the dozens of all black blueprint pages marked sub-basement [redacted] through sub-basement [redacted] I'm sure none of their data center capacity would ever be classified. They've been nothing but fully transparent these last few years, after all!

  • by QilessQi (2044624) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:24PM (#44964939)

    The frequency and amplitude of the phone conversation, sampled at 1-millisecond intervals.

    Just metadata.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:27PM (#44964963) Homepage

    He wants all information about everybody he can get his hands on. That's basically his job.

    That's why it's the President's job is to say "That's illegal. Don't do it. If you do it, I will have you fired, arrested for wiretapping, and charged for your crimes. I will do that to the next NSA Director who breaks the law. And the next. For as many as it takes, until I get an NSA Director who understands that the law supercedes what they want.", and follow through on what he said.

    President Obama has failed to do this. So did President Bush. That's because they don't want to do their job, they'd rather (for whatever reason) have an NSA breaking the law.

    • Why do people don't get this more? The NSA/Military are (for the most part) carrying out the policies and directives set by their civilian over-seers.

      Michael Hayden actually expressed this [charlierose.com] very clearly:

      Former NSA Director Michael Hayden exemplifies this in a quote from late July: âoeGive me the box you will allow me to operate in. Iâ(TM)m going to play to the very edges of that box.â

    • by dbIII (701233)
      There's still enough uncertainty with Kennedy that various spooks can mutter things that can be taken as highly veiled threats and convince people to leave them alone and go after softer targets.
      Of course it's obvious that the CIA didn't kill Kennedy - he's dead after all so it couldn't have been done by the same CIA so fucked up that had one branch selling guns to Castro and another trying to stop him. That doesn't stop them from trying to take credit for it though.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      The explanation is easy: The NSA has dirt on Bush and Obama...

  • Bill to rein in NSA (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:28PM (#44964973)
    For those who don't know, Senators Wyden (D-OR), Udall (D-CO), Paul (R-KY) and Blumenthal (D-CT) say they will introduce a bill today [arstechnica.com] to rein in the NSA.
    • by Deflagro (187160)

      Yea and when it fails to go anywhere, they can just say "oh well, we tried". Eventually the people might wake up and realize they haven't been in control for a very long time. Your vote means nothing and even if you replace one scumbag for another, they are all part of the same broken system. I'm guessing whoever runs the global network of federal banks is the real overlord.

      They will eventually have to make a show that it's all shut down or controlled while just upping the secrecy level by creating an actua

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Yeah, that'll work.

      After all, the NSA has done such a stellar job of following the laws enacted to date.

      Wake up: The only way to stop the NSA is to de-fund them. And even then, there are probably "slush funds" from the FBI, CIA, and DEA that they could tap into.

      • by dbIII (701233)

        And even then, there are probably "slush funds" from the FBI

        They can always sell weapons to Hezbolla like North and Poindexter did - less than a year after Hezbolla blew up more than a hundred people at a US base including a lot of US Marines. I'm sure Israel won't mind, after all Iran is selling a lot of weapons to them already so the US making a bit of money on arms sales to Hezbolla instead would make them a bit happier wouldn't it :)

  • by HermMunster (972336) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:35PM (#44965045)

    Very few of American's are terrorists. Any claim otherwise is paranoia. That is not national security. It is national paranoia.

    Also, it is illegal. These people are the military. The military should have no oversight of the civilian public.

    The NSA is part of the DoD under the Pentagon. That makes them a military entity even if most of those working there are civilians. We have lots of civilians working in all areas of the military. They all are bound by military law and military code of conduct.

    These unconstitutional actions need to end.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Quite a few Americans are terrorists. They are called Tea Party members or NSA employees.

    • I hate to be in a position where I'm defending them, but what laws did you have in mind? Mind you, I'm not suggesting they're not breaking laws (clearly they are, such as the US Constitution, as you said), but I am suggesting that they aren't subject to a lot of the laws that the armed forces are subject to, which is what it seemed like you were implying.

      For instance, the Posse Comitatus Act that limits Presidential power is specific in referring to the armed forces, rather than the military or the DoD as a

  • So Ted Cruz just fauxilibustered for like 24 hours trying to convince us that Obamacare is Nazism on steroids. If he had any sense of strategy he would have been pointing at the NSA and saying that they are going to slurp up every bit of medical data that Obamacare creates, that the NSA is going to have your most intimate medical details on file at their fingertips.

    Even if you don't tell anyone that you've got herpes the NSA will know it. They will know when you are pregnant, when you miscarry, when you

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Even if you don't tell anyone that you've got herpes the NSA will know it. They will know when you are pregnant, when you miscarry, when you decide to have an abortion because your fetus tests positive for down syndrome. They will know the results of any DNA parentage tests even when you don't tell your own family.

      ... so be good for goodness' sake!

  • i don't trust what the nsa says, does anyone?

    they do everything in secret

    they've been shown to have reneged on every assurance they've given so far

    the nsa is a dagger pointed at the heart of our bill of rights, and operates with impunity of any oversight or control

    the entire program needs to be wound down and focused on actual surveillance of actual terrorist targets, not this vacuum cleaner for everything

    do we still have the backbone to press our representatives to ensure this is done?

  • Weren't we warned? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir Holo (531007) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:47PM (#44965155)

    "He who sacrifices freedom for security..." – B.J.F.

    "The tree of liberty must..." – T.J.

    "In the councils of government, we must..." – D.D.E.

    On a more positive note, at least the gears of legislation seem to be responding.

  • NSA=commie (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjames (1099) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:49PM (#44965175) Homepage

    Wasn't it always the dirty commies that spied on their own people and didn't care if they liked it or not?

    Why does the NSA hate democracy?

  • Show of hands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:56PM (#44965227)

    Who wants this crap to continue "in the name of fighting terrorism"? The alternative seems to be we lose 3000 people every dozen years or so. Big deal. I say we write off our losses every once in a while and stop shitting ourselves.

  • I wonder how much information the NSA has on Little Bobby Tables... Can they really sanitize their inputs, when it's all dirty?

  • I am wating for Senator Dianne Feinstein to make her phone records public.

    What's that you say, phone records are private? HYPOCRITE!

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:39PM (#44965593) Journal

    Andrew Napolitano explains very clearly [lewrockwell.com] why the FISA "court" is an unconstitutional institution, and not a court of law at all.

    Even if the FISA court was a legal forum, no court in this country has the authority to override the 4th amendment.

    -jcr

  • That is: All your base are belong to U.S.

  • Not entirely true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @07:47PM (#44966431)

    First let me say: I work for a phone company. I'm a DBA, I've had my hands on just about everything, so I know what's possible and what's not. Also, no, I do not know of any access the NSA has to our records. Clearly they could have API access but I'm pretty sure I'd have heard about it. If they are in our systems it's likely without our knowledge.
    Second: I hate the NSA and everything they are doing. I do not doubt they are already collecting everything they possibly can.

    But...
    We don't collect "All phone records" All this meta-data everyone is talking about is useless to us. Why would we keep a record of you calling your brother? If it's a toll free call we could give a fuck less and it's NOT recorded. You have to remember that the majority of phone switches in the US today were built in the 60's and 70's. The largest drives they have are incredibly old 20mb hard drives the size of a phone book. (ironic huh?) To allow us to store more data, these drives are dumped via netowork every night to standard Oracle databases. If the NSA is hacking us, this is likely where they get their info. As all the daily data rolls off we can collect more. But the truth of it is, we only collect data for billing purposes. So if your call doesn't generate a charge it doesn't get logged. The switch does not have the disk space to store it. We CAN log all your calls, if requested. CALEA requests come in for that sort of thing, but the number of lines that can be going on in one switch at a time is very limited. The data stacks up fast and we have engineers checking regularly to make sure there aren't too many running at once. I think the most I ever saw, in a city of 50k+ was 3...

    Then you have the toll calls. Now your phone company logs those but where the call actually goes? No... They know you dialed X number, were on the phone for Xmin and they charge you. Where the call actually went they have no idea. If you have a number in Istanbul that automatically forwards to some other number? Your phone company has no clue. Your phone company looks up the number from a public list, figures out which exchange it belongs to, then passes the call along the cheapest route to that destination. Each subsequent exchange only knows where the call is headed and the preceding exchange. They do not know who made the call, they may get caller id info but that stuff is ridiculously easy to fake. Your call jumps from exchange A to B to C to D to E... all exchange C knows is that the call is headed to E and it came from B... so they can bill B... B bills A and so on. The only exchange the NSA could get any real data from is A, the one the call originated from.

    Long story short, this data is pretty much useless for terrorists. If you're making ANY attempt to disguise where you're calling they're pretty much out of luck. Disposable cellphones from wallmart pretty much make this entire effort pointless.

    Now the real question is: What is the NSA really using this data for?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Your call jumps from exchange A to B to C to D to E... all exchange C knows is that the call is headed to E and it came from B... so they can bill B... B bills A and so on. The only exchange the NSA could get any real data from is A, the one the call originated from.
      The NSA and GCHQ have global reach. That was the bright idea behind digital exchanges, packets, layers and international law enforcement treaties had some real good tracking options.
      The hardware and its encryption as a global export standard
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Another naive new hire..."but I'm pretty sure I'd have heard about it." About like the last time you were about to laid off, "and you had heard about it" directly from the CEO?. Mr. 1157495.

      Here's an FYI for you newbie. Technology is controlled by hardware. Without hardware your DBA skills are useless. It has always been that way and will always be. In other words hardware does not have to communicate with the software side to tell you what it is doing. It can skip layers on a whim if that is what it

    • But we do know that the NSA *does* monitor phone traffic.

      For example, telecom interception at att:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A [wikipedia.org]

      How do you reconcile what you said with this information. Is room 641 a lie?

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