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NSA Can Retrieve, Replay All Phone Calls From a Country From the Past 30 Days 320

An anonymous reader sends this news from the Washington 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. ... 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."
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NSA Can Retrieve, Replay All Phone Calls From a Country From the Past 30 Days

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:18PM (#46519593)

    Think again.

  • Its ok. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NettiWelho ( 1147351 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:19PM (#46519595)
    Well this is a truly shocking revelation noone saw coming.

    NSA will probably claim they only use their power to create rainbows and heal sick puppies.
  • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:25PM (#46519651)

    Co-operation? I highly, highly doubt that.

    I can see only two possibilities for how the NSA could collect every single phone call of an entire country, such that the Washington Post would agree not to publish the name of the country. One is that it's something like North Korea where the infrastructure is really weak and there might conceivably be only a handful of points where all telephone calls pass through. If a covert team on the ground were able to splice those fibres, or hack the telephone equipment remotely, and somehow duplicate the internal traffic onto fibres heading out of the country , I can see they could be intercepted at that point.

    The other possibility is that it's a small country that's supposed to be "allied" (Washington does not really have allies), like Belgium, seat of the EU. We know that GCHQ hacked Belgacom pretty badly. Undoubtably the NSA has done the same with other telcos. In this case, the WashPo agrees not to disclose it to avoid causing even more severe diplomatic fallout (though this was apparently not a concern so far). For a small but modern country it's quite feasible to imagine hacked telephone equipment simply sending all phone call data out over the internet or a fibre that's meant to be dark without anyone actually noticing, as phone calls are relatively low bandwidth.

    Regardless, this is pretty amazing. Every time I think these fuckers can't get any creepier, they do. First OPTIC NERVE and now this.

    These stories always leave me depressed. It's clear nothing is going to happen, the politicians all seem to be creaming themselves over these powers and can't wait to legalise it all ... then they can conveniently go after anyone who is breaking their collection with crypto.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:32PM (#46519697)
    The problem with all of this is that warrants used to mean that if you had reasonable suspicion, you could ask nicely, and if you found something that gave you probable cause, you could get a search warrant.

    The unstated assumption is that only the things you find after you get the search warrant are admissible. The assumption was unstated because time machines didn't exist.

    If you bury the body and bleach the walls, the prosecution finds no blood. (The cops can find a dozen empty containers of bleach, and ask you why all your wallpaper is sparkling white, and that's still a pretty good foundation on which to build a case. Reasonable people don't bleach their ceilings with a mop.) You can wiretap the guy, but if he's already made the incriminating phone call to his very good friend with the pig farm, it's not going to help the prosecution very much unless the suspect is dumb enough to do it again. Hey, guess what? Law enforcement isn't supposed to be easy.

    We now have the ability to quite literally go back in time and look at everything someone ever said, preceding the time at which the warrant was issued.

    Legally, there's no time machine, you're just looking at the (nonpublic) permanent record of everything everybody ever said to anybody ever. But qualitatively, being able to go into the past and drag things up, even from private communications where both speakers had a reasonable expectation of privacy, appears to fundamentally change the definition of a warrant, of discovery, and so on.

    The whole concept of investigation has changed, and it makes the question "Are you now, or have you ever been, a [politically-undesirable / criminal]?" just got a whole lot murkier. I think that's the issue upon which the Supremes may ultimately have to rule.

    It's one thing to say "John Spartan, you have been fined one credit for violating the verbal morality statute." It's quite another to say "...for something you uttered on January 23, 1996."

  • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @05:54PM (#46519825)
    You are not depressed enough. ;)

    What is far more scary is the trajectory of all of this - they are light years ahead of where we thought they were in the inevitable decent into a police state.
    If you had made such claims about the NSA a few years ago on slashdot you would have been ridiculed and marked a troll. It would have been unbelievable to most.
    (NB: I am NOT saying this justifies making unsubstantiated claims about the future though)

    But where will they be in 5-10 years when they are better at hiding their activities? I am not saying I know and I am not a conspiracy theorist but to be honest whatever it is it looks pretty grim.

    We now also know that one of the NSA's primary functions is squashing political dissent and corporate espionage so this is not limited to terrorists etc.

    We already knew that the US engaged in this (assuredly with the help of the NSA) and more:
      - Manipulations in places such as South America resulting in countless deaths.
      - Presidential writs for assassination
      - Lying about WMD in Iraq
      - Drone attacks on civilians
      - State authorised torture
      - Mass surveillance
      - etc etc
    And this is just what we know to be true...

    So what is even scarier still is that this is paralleled by the advance of drones and robotics. They just took the governors off R&D on weaponised robots. This includes law enforcement application such as for riots.

    Looking at all this and the complete lack of traction in undoing or slowing down any of it where do you think this is all going? No place good.

    NB: This looks like I am very anti american. I am not. I am anti-super power. I have no delusions that China or Russia are any better for mostly the same reasons.
  • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:01PM (#46519881)

    ...all domestic telephone calls will be routed through Great Britain from now on.

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @06:45PM (#46520181) Journal

    It's wrong to say "the US government"

    Our government is the best system yet implemented.

    The problem is criminality. Even if it goes up to the President (and it surely has...many times...recently) that does not mean that **our system of governance** is faulty.

    A good system of governance should transparently expose, prevent, stop, and/or negate criminality.
    The fact that ours doesn't is a combination of weak oversight and poor internal culture.
    Having the "best" faulty government is not the same as having a good government.

    I'd also happily debate your claims that our government is the best system yet implemented.
    By itself, our dual party system (and the way they shut out 3rd parties) is cause for serious complaint.

  • by log0n ( 18224 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @08:52PM (#46521005)

    All of your yapping back and forth over semantics is distracting you from the fact that we are living in a fucking police state. Focus.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats