The NSA records “every single” phone call in a targeted country [World Socialist Website]

By Andre Damon
19 March 2014

The National Security Agency (NSA) has developed and deployed a system capable of recording “100 percent” of the telephone calls made by residents of a targeted foreign country, according to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the Washington Post and published on Tuesday.

At the request of US officials, the Post has not revealed which country is being subject to the program, or what other countries the NSA is seeking to target. The newspaper reported that “With up to 30 days of recorded conversations in hand, the NSA can pull an instant history of the subject’s movements, associates and plans.” The Post reported that other intelligence agencies also have access to the program.

The revelation refutes as a blatant lie the claim by Barack Obama that “people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

The collection of all the telephone calls made in any country would inevitably involve the recording of vast amounts of telephone conversations involving Americans who either called the country’s residents or received calls from them.

The Post noted that “Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving Americans would be gathered from the country” targeted by the program.

As a matter of policy, the NSA does not purge such phone calls, on the grounds that they are “acquired incidentally as a result of collection directed against appropriate foreign intelligence targets.”

The phone call recordings are being collected under a program called MYSTIC, which started in 2009. In 2011, the program added a tool, called RETRO, (short for “retrospective retrieval”) that allows the NSA to record “every single” telephone call in a targeted country and retrieve them for up to 30 days, according to a summary of the program obtained by the Post.

The Post reported that, while the RETRO program was developed in order to carry out spying on a single targeted country, such spying “may soon be extended to other countries, if it has not been already.” The Post notes that the secret intelligence budget leaked last year notes that there are at least five countries for which MYSTIC provides “comprehensive metadata access and content.”

The White House has sought to downplay allegations that it has been conducting a sweeping warrantless wiretapping dragnet by claiming that it only collects telephone “metadata,” that is, information about the call, and not the content itself. Obama claimed on January 17 that the “bulk collection of telephone records … does not involve the content of phone calls.”

The latest revelation, however, makes clear that the US government is recording in dragnet fashion the telephone conversations of people in other countries, as well as the international telephone conversations of American citizens…

Excerpted; full article link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/19/nsas-m19.html

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