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posted by LaminatorX on Friday March 21 2014, @08:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the if-a-phone-is-tapped-and-no-one-hears-it-does-it-make-a-sound dept.

Fluffeh writes:

"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."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @08:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @08:49AM (#19193)

    Brill: "The government's been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the forties. They've infected everything. They get into your bank statements, computer files, email, listen to your phone calls... Every wire, every airwave. The more technology used, the easier it is for them to keep tabs on you. It's a brave new world out there. At least it'd better be." - EOTS

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by morgauxo on Friday March 21 2014, @01:05PM

      by morgauxo (2082) on Friday March 21 2014, @01:05PM (#19268)

      The 40s sounds about right. 1840s that is. How do you think they got the right-a-way to run all those telegraph poles without lots of cooporation with the government? No doubt the relationship has carried through time all the way to today.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by wonkey_monkey on Friday March 21 2014, @09:20AM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Friday March 21 2014, @09:20AM (#19203) Homepage

    NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls

    Wow, thanks Washington Post, I couldn't get a handle on this whole "recording" thing until someone used a time-travel analogy.

    What next? Ford brings out a new car and calls it a revolution in "vehicular incremental teleportation"?

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Friday March 21 2014, @09:23AM

      by wonkey_monkey (279) on Friday March 21 2014, @09:23AM (#19206) Homepage

      Hah. Okay, not "into the pasta," although I do like the sound of that.

      NSA surveillance program reaches into the past to retrieve, replay phone calls

      --
      systemd is Roko's Basilisk
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @10:06PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @10:06PM (#19495)

        As Slashcode has yet to be fixed such that it handles Unicode properly, the proper way to cut and paste remains dragging and dropping into an ASCII-only text editor.
        This will expose all characters that Slashcode will not display correctly.
        (It may even convert them for you.)
        Leafpad, as an example, converts an em dash into a double-hyphen and converts a "smart" quote[1] into a regular quotation mark.
        As I recall, Notepad does the same.

        Look for anything that hasn't been auto-converted and tweak that by hand.

        Only then should you drag and drop your blockquoted text from the text editor into the posting page.

        [1] I call those dumb quotes.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Friday March 21 2014, @10:21PM

          by wonkey_monkey (279) on Friday March 21 2014, @10:21PM (#19502) Homepage

          Or, alternatively, learn to use Preview as I should ;)

          --
          systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 1) by SlackStone on Friday March 21 2014, @05:48PM

      by SlackStone (815) on Friday March 21 2014, @05:48PM (#19390) Homepage

      The "Time Travel" analogy is too hard for me to explain to others. I like to spin it as TIVO for the entire Information Super Highway.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Phoenix666 on Friday March 21 2014, @09:21AM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Friday March 21 2014, @09:21AM (#19205) Journal

    The NSA and CIA are an existential threat to our freedom. It's them or us. We techies and geeks bear a special burden to fight. We designed the systems they broke. We must fix them. We have access to the same math and science they do. What we lack in individual resources we make up for in great numbers and vastly more decentralized set of nodes. We can beat them. We must beat them.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @09:29AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @09:29AM (#19210)

      I know man! What's the matter? They just mad 'cause we get more pussy than they do?

    • (Score: 1) by bob_super on Friday March 21 2014, @05:05PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday March 21 2014, @05:05PM (#19380)

      Then what? Make underwear for $1/day?

      Sadly, most of the recent US growth, outside of fracking, can be attributed to surveillance (corporate and state) and the military.
      Elon Musk can't employ everyone...

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Dogeball on Friday March 21 2014, @09:41AM

    by Dogeball (814) on Friday March 21 2014, @09:41AM (#19212)

    The argument that it is not surveillance until viewed only stands if

    a) The data is stored securely and encrypted such that it can be neither stolen, leaked nor casually peeked at

    b) The agency requires some kind of warrant to access a given individual's records and recordings.

    The burden of proof that there is no abuse of power rests on the agency.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by wantkitteh on Friday March 21 2014, @10:00AM

      by wantkitteh (3362) on Friday March 21 2014, @10:00AM (#19214) Homepage Journal

      One would hope an organisation like the NSA would be able to keep it's data secret, but Edward Snowden would beg to differ. Following the "caching" of a conversation, and if anyone asks about a specific conversation later on, we have only the NSA's word that they have or haven't listened to it. In response to any inquiries, the NSA would be utterly incapable of giving a trustworthy answer.

      Oh, hey, that last sentence stands on it's own quite nicely there (and I only had to make 1 grammatical edit...)

      • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @01:40PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @01:40PM (#19283)

        One would hope an organisation like the NSA would be able to keep it's data secret,

        Why? Unethical stolen data should be kept secret? Or release it to the world and expose their unethical behavior with example after example of what data they're truly collecting (as opposed to what they say they're collecting)? Unethical organizations should ...REDACTED DUE TO FEAR OF EXPRESSING MY FREE SPEECH

      • (Score: 1) by chown on Friday March 21 2014, @06:06PM

        by chown (1227) on Friday March 21 2014, @06:06PM (#19397)

        Oh, hey, that last sentence stands on it's own quite nicely there (and I only had to make 1 grammatical edit...) (emphasis mine)

        You should've made more than one grammatical edit....

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Bokononist on Friday March 21 2014, @10:19AM

      by Bokononist (3013) on Friday March 21 2014, @10:19AM (#19219)

      I disagree, if I send a drone to your house to take pictures of you all day and then try to argue that I'm not really surveilling you because I haven't looked at any of them yet, and I might not look at them if you don't annoy me, would you buy that argument or would you tell me to fuck right off?

      --
      Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @10:22AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @10:22AM (#19221)

        You had me at the word disagree.

      • (Score: 2) by Dogeball on Friday March 21 2014, @11:19AM

        by Dogeball (814) on Friday March 21 2014, @11:19AM (#19236)

        In your scenario, I am under surveillance because you have unlimited access to any photos taken by your drone.

        If you can convince me of a) and b), qualifying b) as you are (technologically) powerless to view the pictures without a warrant then I am not under surveillance until you obtain a warrant to look at those pictures. On obtaining a warrant, you have immediately completed your surveillance, rather than just starting, which is obviously an attractive feature for intelligence agencies (find out if your suspect has been bad, not just if he is being bad) and theoretically reduces their perceived need to resort to illegal tactics.

        If a random individual or corporation can obtain such a warrant for surveillance of an individual in their own house, then the authority issuing the warrant is corrupt, which presents an entirely different problem to the surveillance itself (analogous to FISA problems, not NSA problems).

        Let's not confuse objections to surveillance (which you obviously have plenty of) to objections to particular surveillance tactics. If there shouldn't be any surveillance, how it is carried out is moot; if there should be, it should be efficient and with proper oversight.

        WRT the topic, I'm not at all convinced of a) and b). Convince me, NSA.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Bokononist on Friday March 21 2014, @11:46AM

          by Bokononist (3013) on Friday March 21 2014, @11:46AM (#19242)

          They could not convince me of a) or b), nor would they bother to try. The warrant should come before the surveillance not after. I'm guessing the month period before flushing the cache is because they don't have enough storage to keep more. Wait until it's a year, 10 years, your whole fucking life. Proper oversight, please, no oversight could be could enough for me for that kind of power, and it shouldn't be for you if you hold your freedom in any esteem(I'm sure you do, not trying to flame just make a point).

          If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him. -Cardinal Richelieu

          --
          Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.
  • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by Mr Dave on Friday March 21 2014, @10:20AM

    by Mr Dave (2569) on Friday March 21 2014, @10:20AM (#19220)

    Intelligence agency collecting intelligence on another country?

    I mean, I'll admit I'm surprised they are not collecting US phone calls for a month.

    But this is totally be within their remit I would have thought.

    Or are we pretending intelligence agencies have to play by rules when operating overseas? Well, aside from the "don't get caught" rule.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by c0lo on Friday March 21 2014, @11:54AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 21 2014, @11:54AM (#19245) Journal

      Isn't this what they are supposed to do?
      Intelligence agency collecting intelligence on another country?

      No mate, you are wrong. That's an (supposed) intelligence agency which collects all the idioticy of everyday phone conversations from all the the countries they can get, store them for a month and discard them, 'cause they can't filter this sheer amount in any significant way.
      And you, the tax paying citizens, just coughed $1.5billions [datacenterknowledge.com] for a new centre and will continue to pay the operational expenses of this institution which seems to be extremely efficient in grinding those money into a useless dust.

      You call this waste... intelligence?

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by TheLink on Friday March 21 2014, @11:11AM

    by TheLink (332) on Friday March 21 2014, @11:11AM (#19231) Journal
    Does that mean if I set a system up to automatically download lots of movies, music and software it doesn't mean I am personally committing copyright infringement until I actually use the stuff?

    Or if I'm running a TOR relay/end node, I'm not legally liable for any of the traffic as long as I am not personally accessing it?
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @12:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @12:01PM (#19247)

      "Or if I'm running a TOR relay/end node, I'm not legally liable for any of the traffic as long as I am not personally accessing it?"

      Don't worry, the partyvan will be along shortly...

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by mechanicjay on Friday March 21 2014, @11:41AM

    by mechanicjay (7) <mechanicjayNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday March 21 2014, @11:41AM (#19240) Homepage Journal

    My brain, before coffee and before the reality of the modern security state set in, read the headline as, "NASA Time Machine ". I got really excited and clicked into the story. Oh, it's just business as usual. Now, where's my cloud hosted email....

    I propose reassigning the NSA's budget line to NASA. Maybe then we will get a Time Machine or something else cool. In the worst case, even if NASA pissed it all away on hookers and blow, it'd still be a better use of the money.

    --
    My VMS box beat up your Windows box.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by metamonkey on Friday March 21 2014, @01:21PM

    by metamonkey (3174) on Friday March 21 2014, @01:21PM (#19275)

    Hey, I took a bunch of naked pictures of your wife. Don't worry, though, it's only peeping if I look at them. Also, I gave copies to your neighbors, but again, don't worry, I didn't look at them.

    --
    Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @01:35PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21 2014, @01:35PM (#19281)

    Of course, whether that capture can be considered monitoring comes down to semantics.

    No. No it does not. That's just what the NSA wants you to buy.

    And since most of the calls accessible by Retrospective are flushed from its 'cache' after a month without being queried

    Why would anyone believe this?

    • (Score: 1) by Zyx Abacab on Friday March 21 2014, @03:42PM

      by Zyx Abacab (3701) on Friday March 21 2014, @03:42PM (#19347)

      By 'flushed', I'm sure they mean 'moved to an alternate storage medium'.

      Maybe they use Blu-rays [arstechnica.com]? /sarcasm

    • (Score: 1) by chown on Friday March 21 2014, @06:12PM

      by chown (1227) on Friday March 21 2014, @06:12PM (#19398)

      And since most of the calls accessible by Retrospective are flushed from its 'cache' after a month without being queried

      Why would anyone believe this?

      Exactly, why would anybody believe this? If you believe any more that NSA does what it claims, then you're downright naive. But even if you do so, why would you believe they would flush things competently? That among the thousands of human hands that have access to this data, not a single one would consider using it in a way you wouldn't prefer?

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by WildWombat on Friday March 21 2014, @05:56PM

    by WildWombat (1428) on Friday March 21 2014, @05:56PM (#19393)

    I've suspected for a while now that the NSA is recording all US phone calls. I don't have any concrete evidence but I think that its both technically possible and that they're unaccountable enough to just do it.

    To the technically possible part: Say everybody in the US spends an hour a day on the phone. Probably a bit high, but we're just doing a ballpark estimate here. Since the vast majority of the calls are going to be to other people in the US you end up with approximately 150 million hours worth of calls to record. Some voice compression algorithms (such as codec 2 or opus) can compress down to 2.5-5 kbs. We'll go with 5 kbs. 150 millions hours * 3600 seconds per hour * 5 kbs. Convert to TB and its only approximately 300TB a day. Get some custom asics to do the compression and stick it in the rooms they maintain in the telco buildings and then send it back to their big Utah datacenter... I think its technically possible.

    And ever since the first time that the NSA got caught doing large scale illegal wiretapping and congress not only didn't stop them but granted the telcos immunity for abetting it I've sort of assumed that the NSA has just been recording everything. Because we can seems to be enough justification for them to do whatever they like.

    I'm not usually the conspiracy theory type but given all the recent revelations I don't think this one is that far out there. What do you guys think?

    Cheers,
    -WW