Let me comment on one absolutely chilling aspect of this revelation:
I have spent most of my adult life editing spoken-word audio. You give me a month’s worth of your phone conversations and I can almost surely make you say anything I want you to say—I can give “audio testimony” that you are the most evil person who ever walked the earth.
From the Washington Post: “NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls.”
The National Security Agency 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, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.
A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.
The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.
In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.
The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.
This is wrong. This is dangerous. This is a tool that can be used against anyone who becomes “inconvenient” to those in power.