In a lesser noticed story that is once again based on Edward Snowden’s documents, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani write in the Washington Post that the NSA has “built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place.”
The article has not named the country whose phone system has been so compromised.
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.
No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.
I am disturbed that Gellman and Soltani did not reveal the name of the country, as I fail to see why that would be harmful to national security. Embarrassing, yes. Harmful? I would like to see the case made for that.
Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow comments on Americans’ ability to accept the most outrageous actions of their government, even when it is revealed that they repeatedly lie about the nature and scale of their activities, acknowledging them only when forced to do so by Snowden’s revelations.