from the if-a-phone-is-tapped-and-no-one-hears-it-does-it-make-a-sound dept.
"National Security Agency documents released this week by The Washington Post gave a glimpse of an NSA program that allows the agency to capture the voice content of virtually every phone call in an unnamed country and perform searches against the stored calls' metadata to find and listen to conversations for up to a month after they happened. 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.
Of course, whether that capture can be considered monitoring comes down to semantics. In the NSA's reasoning, it's not 'surveillance' until a human listens in. And since most of the calls accessible by Retrospective are flushed from its 'cache' after a month without being queried, the NSA could argue that the calls have never been surveilled."