The new Barton Gellman story at the Washington Post shows that the NSA is pretty damned good at collecting intelligence from foreign countries: NSA Surveillance Program Reaches ‘Into the Past’ to Retrieve, Replay Phone Calls.
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.
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.
Note: this program is targeted against a specific foreign country, probably because it’s one of those nations that tacitly — or openly — supports terrorism against the US.
Also note: there’s absolutely nothing unlawful about this, and foreign intelligence gathering has always involved collecting content, through wiretaps, bugs, hacking, etc. This is what the NSA was created to do, and they’re doing it to protect US citizens.
And it’s an absolute certainty that other countries have similar operations.
I remember the days when Snowden’s apologists pretended they were exposing wrongdoing against US citizens. Now that excuse is totally gone, and they’re simply exposing perfectly legal intelligence programs designed to protect Americans.
UPDATE at 3/18/14 11:03:38 am
I should note that even though the entire premise of publishing an article like this is flawed, in my opinion, at least the Washington Post was responsible enough not to reveal the country being monitored by this program.
Glenn Greenwald, on the other hand, has made it very clear that he won’t be bound by such quaint notions of responsibility. Here’s his reply when asked if he agreed with redacting these details: