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Mar 25 2014

NSA storing every single phone call in one country

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.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    Texas?

  2. 2
    colnago80

    Probably Israel.

  3. 3
    ShowMetheData

    Canada – close and convenient and they – mostly – speak english

    And the NSA can hype any crossing of the border as a “HIGHWAY OF TERROR” like the 9/11 terrorists who were accepted directly into America by the American immigration system (which even months later sent form letters to the (dead) hijackers.) Some 9/11 terrorists were hyped by several American politicians as coming from Canada.

  4. 4
    astrosmashley

    Marcus for the win…

  5. 5
    Reginald Selkirk

    My guess would be Afghanistan. The telecommunications infrastructure must be of a modest size, and we’ve got fairly complete access to it, as well as the motivation.

  6. 6
    left0ver1under

    ShowMetheData (#3) -

    Canada – close and convenient and they – mostly – speak english

    And because both countries operate on the same telephone system. You don’t have to dial internationally (only 1 and the area code) to call across the border.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Joking aside, it’s probably Belgium. Where the EU hq is.

  8. 8
    Sleeper (from Sci blogs)

    Belgium?

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    Belgium, where the EU headquarters is.

  10. 10
    karmacat

    I am guessing Yemen, where there is a lot of Al Qaeda activity, but Afghanistan sounds like a possibility too

  11. 11
    Steve Cameron

    It’s gotta be Iraq or Afghanistan. I’d be honestly surprised if there were more than a couple million phones to tap in either country.

  12. 12
    doublereed

    Actually I’m gonna side with colnago with Israel (although Belgium also likely). Israeli-American espionage has always been upwards of ridiculous.

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