Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Government Can Go Back in Time and Listen to Calls You Made Before You Were a Target

Back in May 2013, a former FBI agent went on national television and twice told the American public that "all digital communications" are recorded and retained for posterity by US government agencies. Those comments came just a month before the first Edward Snowden leaks rocked the world. Later that June Glenn Greenwald, the reporter to publish the first of the Snowden leaks, told an audience in Chicago that the NSA collects the content of one billion phone calls per day.
When FBI agent Tim Clemente said on television in May 2013 that the federal government had the ability to go back in time and listen to all of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's phone calls, it wasn't at all clear exactly how the NSA might technically do such a thing. In order for spy agencies to make use of phone calls harvested en masse, they not only have to collect and store every phone call made in the United States. They also have need the encryption keys to unscramble the conversations, to turn the bits of data into something meaningful to intelligence analysts. This latest Snowden leak shows us the NSA and FBI apparently have no problem doing the latter.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, February 26th, 2015.]

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