Is the Government Also Monitoring the CONTENT of Our Phone Calls?

George Washington's picture

The Obama administration has been caught spying on the Verizon phone calls of tens of millions of Americans.

But the government has sought to “reassure” us that it is only tracking “metadata” such as the time and place of the calls, and not the actual content of the calls.

That claim is patently absurd.

The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.

All U.S. intelligence agencies – including the CIA and NSA – are going to spy on Americans’ finances.  The IRS will be spying on Americans’ shopping records, travel, social interactions, health records and files from other government investigators.

Glenn Greenwald reported in May:

A seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.




On Wednesday night, [CNN's Erin] Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?


CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.


BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.


CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

“All of that stuff” – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – “is being captured as we speak”.

On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:


Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure“, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.


There have been some previous indications that this is true. Former AT&T engineer Mark Klein revealed that AT&T and other telecoms had built a special network that allowed the National Security Agency full and unfettered access to data about the telephone calls and the content of email communications for all of their customers. Specifically, Klein explained “that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” and that “contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists . . . much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”




That every single telephone call is recorded and stored would also explain this extraordinary revelation by the Washington Post in 2010:

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. ***

Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have been warning for years that Americans would be “stunned” to learn what the US government is doing in terms of secret surveillance.

The Atlantic notes:

TSA’s surveillance of our communications is most likely much, much bigger than [metadata]. Technology has made it possible for the American government to spy on citizens to an extent East Germany could only dream of. Basically everything we say that can be traced digitally is being collected by the NSA.




On its face, the document suggests that the U.S. government regularly collects and stores all domestic telephone records,” The Week’s Marc Ambinder writes of Glenn Greenwald’s scoop last night. “My own understanding is that the NSA routinely collects millions of domestic-to-domestic phone records. It does not do anything with them unless there is a need to search through them for lawful purposes.” Previous reporting from many outlets suggests that’s true.”

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency – William Binney – explained, the NSA is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

Binney says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

Binney further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.

Binney says that if anyone gets on the government’s “enemies list”, then the stored information will be used to target them. Specifically, he notes that if the government decides it doesn’t like someone, it analyzes all of the data it has collected on that person and his or her associates over the last 10 years to build a case against him.  This includes whistleblowers, activists or even government insiders … like the head of the CIA.

Indeed, whistleblowers revealed years ago that the NSA was vacuuming up virtually all Internet communications.

The Other Types of Spying the Government Is Doing On Us

In addition, the amount of money and effort the government is putting into spying on Americans using a wide variety of other technologies tends to discredit any notion that the government is exercising restraint in monitoring our phone calls (which are already being tapped) for content.

For example, the government is flying drones over the American homeland to spy on us.

Senator Rand Paul correctly notes:

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy.

Emptywheel notes in a post entitled “The OTHER Assault on the Fourth Amendment in the NDAA? Drones at Your Airport?”:



As the map above makes clear–taken from this 2010 report–DOD [the Department of Defense] plans to have drones all over the country by 2015.

Many police departments are also using drones to spy on us. As the Hill reported:

At least 13 state and local police agencies around the country have used drones in the field or in training, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group. The Federal Aviation Administration has predicted that by the end of the decade, 30,000 commercial and government drones could be flying over U.S. skies.




“Drones should only be used if subject to a powerful framework that regulates their use in order to avoid abuse and invasions of privacy,” Chris Calabrese, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said during a congressional forum in Texas last month.


He argued police should only fly drones over private property if they have a warrant, information collected with drones should be promptly destroyed when it’s no longer needed and domestic drones should not carry any weapons.


He argued that drones pose a more serious threat to privacy than helicopters because they are cheaper to use and can hover in the sky for longer periods of time.


A congressional report earlier this year predicted that drones could soon be equipped with technologies to identify faces or track people based on their height, age, gender and skin color.

Moreover, Wired reports:

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations….


The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases ….


The IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.




The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.




Privacy and security expert Ashkan Soltani told the Daily that the audio could easily be coupled with facial recognition systems or audio recognition technology to identify passengers caught on the recordings.

RT notes:

Street lights that can spy installed in some American cities


America welcomes a new brand of smart street lightning systems: energy-efficient, long-lasting, complete with LED screens to show ads. They can also spy on citizens in a way George Orwell would not have imagined in his worst nightmare.


With a price tag of $3,000+ apiece, according to an ABC report, the street lights are now being rolled out in Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and may soon mushroom all across the country.


Part of the Intellistreets systems made by the company Illuminating Concepts, they have a number of “homeland security applications” attached.


Each has a microprocessor “essentially similar to an iPhone,” capable of wireless communication. Each can capture images and count people for the police through a digital camera, record conversations of passers-by and even give voice commands thanks to a built-in speaker.


Ron Harwood, president and founder of Illuminating Concepts, says he eyed the creation of such a system after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He is “working with Homeland Security” to deliver his dream of making people “more informed and safer.”

Cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. (And – given that your smartphone routinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.) Your iPhone, or other brand of smartphone is spying on virtually everything you do (ProPublica notes: “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker“).

Fox news notes that the government is insisting that “black boxes” be installed in cars to track your location.

The TSA has moved way past airports, trains and sports stadiums, and is deploying mobile scanners to spy on people all over the place. This means that traveling within the United States is no longer a private affair.

You might also have seen the news this week that the Department of Homeland Security is going to continue to allow searches of laptops and phones based upon “hunches”.

What’s that about?

The ACLU published a map in 2006 showing that nearly two-thirds of the American public – 197.4 million people – live within a “constitution-free zone” within 100 miles of land and coastal borders:

The ACLU explained:

  • Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not generally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches.
  • The border, however, has always been an exception. There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply. For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.”
  • But what is “the border”? According to the government, it is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States.
  • As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far away from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
  • Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship. Unfortunately, our courts so far have permitted these kinds of checkpoints – legally speaking, they are “administrative” stops that are permitted only for the specific purpose of protecting the nation’s borders. They cannot become general drug-search or other law enforcement efforts.
  • However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose. On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.
  • The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets.

Computer World reports:

Border agents don’t need probable cause and they don’t need a stinking warrant since they don’t need to prove any reasonable suspicion first. Nor, sadly, do two out of three people have First Amendment protection; it is as if DHS has voided those Constitutional amendments and protections they provide to nearly 200 million Americans.




Don’t be silly by thinking this means only if you are physically trying to cross the international border. As we saw when discussing the DEA using license plate readers and data-mining to track Americans movements, the U.S. “border” stretches out 100 miles beyond the true border. Godfather Politics added:

But wait, it gets even better! If you live anywhere in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey or Rhode Island, DHS says the search zones encompass the entire state.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have a “longstanding constitutional and statutory authority permitting suspicionless and warrantless searches of merchandise at the border and its functional equivalent.” This applies to electronic devices, according to the recent CLCR “Border Searches of Electronic Devices” executive summary [PDF]:

Fourth Amendment


The overall authority to conduct border searches without suspicion or warrant is clear and longstanding, and courts have not treated searches of electronic devices any differently than searches of other objects. We conclude that CBP’s and ICE’s current border search policies comply with the Fourth Amendment. We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits. However, we do think that recording more information about why searches are performed would help managers and leadership supervise the use of border search authority, and this is what we recommended; CBP has agreed and has implemented this change beginning in FY2012.***

The ACLU said, Wait one darn minute! Hello, what happened to the Constitution? Where is the rest of CLCR report on the “policy of combing through and sometimes confiscating travelers’ laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices—even when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing?” DHS maintains it is not violating our constitutional rights, so the ACLU said:

If it’s true that our rights are safe and that DHS is doing all the things it needs to do to safeguard them, then why won’t it show us the results of its assessment? And why would it be legitimate to keep a report about the impact of a policy on the public’s rights hidden from the very public being affected?



As Christian Post wrote, “Your constitutional rights have been repealed in ten states. No, this isn’t a joke. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole. If you are in ten states in the United States, your some of your rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights have been made null and void.”


The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the entire DHS report about suspicionless and warrantless “border” searches of electronic devices. ACLU attorney Catherine Crump said “We hope to establish that the Department of Homeland Security can’t simply assert that its practices are legitimate without showing us the evidence, and to make it clear that the government’s own analyses of how our fundamental rights apply to new technologies should be openly accessible to the public for review and debate.”


Meanwhile, the EFF has tips to protect yourself and your devices against border searches. If you think you know all about it, then you might try testing your knowledge with a defending privacy at the U.S. border quiz.

Wired pointed out in 2008 that the courts have routinely upheld such constitution-free zones:

Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the border to electronics.




The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, finding that the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches applied not just to suitcases and papers, but also to electronics.




Travelers should be aware that anything on their mobile devices can be searched by government agents, who may also seize the devices and keep them for weeks or months. When in doubt, think about whether online storage or encryption might be tools you should use to prevent the feds from rummaging through your journal, your company’s confidential business plans or naked pictures of you and your-of-age partner in adult fun.

Going further down the sci fi Big Brother rabbit hole, Verizon has applied for a patent that would allow your television to track what you are doing, who you are with, what objects you’re holding, and what type of mood you’re in. (And some folks could conceivably be spying on you through your tv using existing technology.)

And they’re probably bluffing and exaggerating, but the Department of Homeland Security claims they will soon be able to know your adrenaline level, what you ate for breakfast and what you’re thinking … from 164 feet away.

Indeed, technology has made pervasive spying more possible than ever before.

TechDirt notes:

In a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans.

Postscript:  This is not some “post-9/11 reality”.  Spying on Americans started before 9/11

And the national security boys can choose to share U.S. civilian information with federal, state, local, or foreign entities for analysis of possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them.

And many say that the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent and to smear people who uncover unflattering this about the government … and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).

Note: Here’s a full report card on how well the government has been balancing civil liberties with other concerns.

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imaginalis's picture

It's all intended to connect phone lines to American whistleblowers and dissenters. How much fear do the elite have for terrorists? They have a much greater threat coming from their own people whom they have looted and deceived.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

eric seenohearnospeakno, "we just need a little balance"

dunce's picture

The govt. has no interest in the vast majority of communications and will use data sort programs to target the ones they are interested in. for example they could pull out all people that had an Arabic name, that was here as a visitor, that called area codes outside the USA or any other possible indicator they think might need scrutiny. They could also look at every elected politician of a party and their family. my point is this is not what most people would call probable cause for an intrusive search and is easily subject to abuse because their is no checks on it once they get the go ahead, nobody knows who they are looking at or why.

forexskin's picture




free access by those in power to information that can garner more power will guarantee its abuse. this data collection system is growing beyond the ability of any person to completely understand it. it is a huge landscape, with innumerable dark corners from which the power hungry will use anything at hand to gain more power.

any potential for abuse serving power is a foregone conclusion.

CutOut's picture

SAT 800 is a sock puppet bot posting diarrhea.
Check out it's posting frequency on 06/06/2013

SAT 800 has been added to the extensive ZH sockpuppet list.


This is an earlier post SAT 800 tried to bury by posting garbage:

HEART, your posting frequency has dropped substantially since being asked to explain your egregious Boston Marathon disinfo posts. Is this a coincidence ?

We are still waiting for an explanation but you refuse to respond. Why ?

ZH readers are curious as to why HEART intentionally posts disinfo such as Boston bombing fake injuries / fake blood / crisis actors garbage which is 100% DISINFORMATION.
Boston bomb disinfo reposted again by heart #3616167

I have screen caps of your Boston bombing fake injuries / fake blood / crisis actors disinfo posts.


ZH is being targeted by FedGov spambots & human operatives saturating the comment sections with garbage and disinformation in addition to down voting certain posters.

They are not harmless trolls, they are professional operatives attempting to undermine and discredit ZH via multi nic sock puppets.

Attacking this post by constant down voting speaks for itself: the shills have exposed themselves.
Case closed.

steveo77's picture

Illegal search and seizure is against the Bill of Rights.

Using illegal search and seizure to put a chill on free speech and freedom of the press is against the Bill of Rights

Illegal detainment is against the Bill of Rights

Torture is against the Bill of Rights

Taking away the right to be secure in your person and your papers (i.e. all your communications) is against the Bill of Rights

PT's picture

Well, I guess the next step is to have 7 billion computers continually transfer random sentences amongst each other 24/7/365.  Let's see the NSA computers store all that!

If you can't starve the beast then force-feed it until it pukes and then keep force-feeding it.

sink critically's picture

Kinda off topic, but...

Does anyone else think that NSA Whistleblower guy bears a remarkable resemblance to Bob Newhart?

ebworthen's picture

Does this mean that I might find an N.S.A. Wife from that pic of my big schlong I sexted a couple years ago?

Mr. Hudson's picture

Why are so many posters on ZH so nervous all of a sudden? You all have been talking about this for years, so what's the big surprise?

cherry picker's picture

It is simple.  Years ago we suspected this would occur and now it is being corraborated.

The Constituiton, our Liberty and our way of life is threatened, moreso than anytime since the Civil War.

It isn't about slavery or the South this time.  This time it is worse.  It is .gov against the people who allowed it to exist.

Divine Wind's picture



Getting pretty close to the time to execute the exit strategy.

Undo the dock lines, sail to <REDACTED>, slip across the border into <REDACTED> and set up a new life there.

I am about ready to trade all this bullshit for shorts, flip flops and a hammock between palm trees.

dunce's picture

Or you could join the fight against tyranny, i would welcome you aboard.

Midasking's picture

Couldn't agree with you more... this nonsense isn't going to stop but rather just run its course til ????? The people aren't going to do anything!!! They have no sense of history let alone econmics... this place has become a joke.  Checkout there are more like you and me. 

TheReplacement's picture

You complain that the people are not going to do anything.  What are YOU going to do about it?  You are one of the people.  Stop criticizing others and stand up.

Mr. Hudson's picture

Stand up? What will that accomplish?

Winston Smith 2009's picture

"And many say that the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent and to smear people who uncover unflattering this about the government …"

To "crush" dissent without even actually physically touching it, all police states need to do is give the public the impression that everyone is potentally being watched at all times within a virtual panopticon:

That is now what we have in the US.

nmewn's picture

MR. EARNEST:  I know there's at least one story that all of you may be interested in:  the reports overnight about a purported order from a FISA judge, as reported.  So why don't I read a statement at the top just to give you a sense about where we are on this, and then I’m happy to answer your follow-up questions after that.  So if you'll bear with me, we’ll do this.      

It won’t surprise you to hear that I'm not in a position to discuss specific classified or operational issues.  But what I can explain to you are our policies.  The Patriot Act was signed into law in October of 2001, and included authority to compel production of business records and other tangible details with the approval of a FISA Court.  This provision has subsequently been reauthorized over the course of two different administrations -- in 2006 and in 2011. 

The Obama administration has made public that some orders issued by the FISA Court, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, have been used to support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations on which members of Congress have been fully and repeatedly briefed.  And I think you’ve heard a couple of members of Congress in both parties today acknowledge that fact. 

The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress.  There is also extensive oversight by the executive branch, including the Department of Justice (lol) and relevant agency counsels and inspectors general, as well as annual and semi-annual reports to Congress, as required by law. 

There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted, pursuant to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.  That regime has been briefed to and approved by the court."

Mr. Earnest is, Josh Earnest, White House Special Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Press Secretary. He is speaking about (presumably) the Foriegn Intelligence Surveillance Act.

They are either intentionally trying to drive everyone crazy or they really are this be the judge...its the WH's own transcript ;-)

dunce's picture

No informed person trusts the DOJ or any other part of this administration to do any oversight of them selves which is really the only check on their activities.  The idea that they put limits on themselves is a kind of circular joke.

Everybodys All American's picture

Liberals are generally naive or stupid. Take your pick. It's the progressives who we need to worry about because they are evil despots and without any boundaries look out. Add this mixture together and that's what you have today working in government. Obama is just the front man to all this madness. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind now that getting rid of this tyranny will take the blood of patriots because this level of evil can't be removed at the ballot box.


Who would have ever thought this would be happening in America?


TheReplacement's picture

Actually, my mother, God rest her soul, predicted this back in the 80s when I was a kid.  Some people saw this coming.  Sadly, I didn't listen to her so I'm partly to blame for not being awake sooner.

nmewn's picture

Well, I know what you mean by liberal...yes they are...stupid.

Personally, I'm trying to reclaim the label Liberal for posterity, what we're talking about are leftist's ie "progressives" which are really socialist & communists, in the Marxian vein.

Who I despise with every ounce of my being.

TheReplacement's picture

I would like to thank you on behalf of Thomas Jefferson and myself for reclaiming "liberal" for it's real meaning.

Joebloinvestor's picture

The NSA records every phone conversation.

All the JD needs is the time and date and the NSA gives them the conversation.

Technically, the JD is not "wiretapping".

nmewn's picture

Something more local for me...

"The residents of Liberty County, Florida heard the news Wednesday that their Sheriff was arrested for doing his job. Sheriff Nicholas Finch, 50, was booked into the Liberty County Jail around 5 pm Tuesday. Florida Governor Rick Scott has named Carl Causey to the post of interim county sheriff."

Its my understanding that the new "Sheriff" (Carl Causey) is FDLE...and of course, unelected...we continue...

"Finch is being charged with official misconduct."..."The charge is related to an incident in March, in which a deputy sheriff arrested a resident of the county for carrying a concealed weapon. Finch made the decision to release the individual shortly afterwards. It is alleged that he then altered or destroyed paperwork relating to the arrest."

"In February of this year, all 67 county sheriffs in Florida signed a pledge declaring that they would uphold the 2nd Amendment and protect people’s’ right to keep and bear arms. Sheriff Finch was a signatory to the pledge."

Now, what the "FDLE excuse" for arresting an elected Sheriff is, is that he destroyed paperwork from an improper gun arrest that one of his deputies made. Which should be, in all fairness, proper, in a sane world. If its an improper arrest in the first place, they don't get to keep (fingerprints for example) as they came by them by an improper arrest.

Hongcha's picture

They are connecting people as well; creating webs, trees, what have you.

Also, the IRS is the one of the arms.

One of the last Roman emperors sent soldiers to the market to stand over the tables and tax each transaction as it happened. 

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Yes they are but when you have a bunch of morons in the rank and file it becomes information overload and they can't make decent use of it. Don't give these assholes too much credit, the emperor is more naked than people realize. Also those cluster maps they are creating swing both ways we are doing to same using follow the money, company, educational backgrounds, etc. You be surprised what you can learn using freely nonclassified available information. Any GS 3 chimp can collect data it requires brain power to analyze it and there is a big shortage of that inside the government, no shortage of educated snake oil salesmen and worker ants that can't actually do anything unless it is written down to the letter of law procedurely wise and god forbid they have to go off script........

The Joker's picture

Yes, a GS4 chimp can collect data but don't underestimate the GS12.  They can certainly analyze data.  If statisticians aren't hired they are contracted out (usually).

ramacers's picture

please. how could anyone think otherwise?

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Heh this only gets better the FBI and NSA are morphing more and more into one kinda like George W. Obama .....

Not Just Verizon: NSA Pulling Information from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, with DropBox Coming Soon

The hits keep coming. Via the Washington Post:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

The Post reports almost 1 in 7 intelligence reports rely on raw data from PRISM. All nine companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple) “participate knowingly” according to the Post, which obtained slides of an internal presentation on the operation. Drop Box is listed as “coming soon.” The Post notes this program’s historical roots in the 70s, when the NSA teamed up with up to 100 U.S. companies in the 1970s for “Special Sources Operations,” and in the Bush era warrantless surveillance program.

This follows earlier (yesterday!) breaking news on NSA surveillance of Americans’ phone records through Verizon, as the administration’s propensity to spy on Americans and stretch its legal powers becomes increasingly apparent to the mainstream. BuzzFeed has a quiz titled “Orwell or Obama?” (disclosure: I tripped up on #8 just before seeing this story). Meanwhile, Huffington Post’s news banner headline today is GEORGE W. OBAMA. If you’ve been reading Reason, you know this story already.


Read the link to the Washington Post article to see just how authoritarian this whole mess is.

Formally, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies like Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department authority to for a secret order from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to compel a reluctant company “to comply.”

In practice, there is room for a company to maneuver, delay or resist. When a clandestine intelligence program meets a highly regulated industry, said a lawyer with experience in bridging the gaps, neither side wants to risk a public fight. The engineering problems are so immense, in systems of such complexity and frequent change, that the FBI and NSA would be hard pressed to build in back doors without active help from each company.

Just a stronger case for using open source publicly scrutinizable code............

New_Meat's picture

GW: u b finally getting close.

- Ned

artless's picture

Is the gov't also monitoring the content? Uh, duh. Echelon anyone? Did the 90's just get wiped clear from everyone's brains but mine? What with the patently absurd ponzi schemes like GRoupon and Faceplant doing the redux of the dotcom baot and switch from the tech bubble and no one seemingly able to remember or just acknowledge that every last transmission imaginable is tracked and has been for decades now. I mean even the state sponsorsed propoganda fossils at 60 Minutes did a piece on it at one point a few years back.

Diamond Jim's picture

the concern is the slope we are sliding down here........IRS audits and over extension of oversight to Tea party PACs and individuals (opposition party if you will), US gubmint getting phone records of Assoc Press, attempts to limit or re interpretation of 1st amendment rights (hate speech etc), 2nd amendment rights, 4th amendment rights...the list is getting longer Comrade. As for "the innocent have nothing to worry about argument"...that is not the point....I wonder if you are so "innocent" that you would not mind a "telescreen" in your living room to watch your every movement. It is the slow erosion of "inalienable rights" that are at stake here in this country. You appear to forget that the Founders limited what gubmint can do, these inalienable rights tell govm't what they cannot do to the citizens as these rights do not come from government. If we allow this erosion...the innocent will have plenty to worry about. The Patriot Act needs significant modification or eliminated all together. The framers of this Act atleast understood that it needed to be renewed on an annual basis with serious thought to its renewal. Today it is passed with no thought.

I strongly suggest you read (or re-read) "1984" to see where it could all be going. If this novel does not scare you, then you can be the first one on your block with a "new and improved Telescreen" your voluntary order now.

olduvai's picture

I assume they record every digital transmission and that the FISA courts allow them to obtain warrants to retroactively monitor. For instance, all data is archived and when a state agency wants intel on an individual, the entire history of communications of the target is assembled from the historic archive.

q99x2's picture

Did you ever think of writing a letter instead of a F'n text message or phone call for crisesakes.

The Joker's picture


Write a letter.

medium giraffe's picture

For The Sake Of Amusement (or Why It's Hard Work Living In The UK Sometimes)

The Verizon story made it to the bbc website.  Here are some of the wonderful comments left by my fellow country-persons:

"MY civil liberties include NOT getting blown up! So please carry on monitoring for terrorism etc."

"There is nothing wrong with this approach. Any government must do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of its interests both within and outside the country."

"A free society has to take steps to protect its freedom. Monitoring communication data is a small price to pay."

"If you've got nothing to hide then you've got nothing to worry about. Why are people so sensitive about phone record collection anyway?"

A pox on you all.

nmewn's picture

Apparently some of your countrymen never heard of Ben Franklin...but don't feel too ashamed of them...there is a bunch who think just like that over here.


See? One just down ticked me ;-)

MrSteve's picture

If the TSA, FBI, DHS, CIA or NSA had actually used any or even one of the three tips on the Boston bombers, Americans might be well and alive today. With spending of untold billions on dubious civil spying, our Feds can't even stop two men who left a paper trail, their Mother's concern about their rising extremism on Facebook and a Russian intelligence surveillance track a mile wide. Who hired these clowns?

The widespread intelligence gathering isn't intelligence, it is oppression. If it were intelligence, they would use information to stop killers from attacking innocent Americans. The current terror defense operation is an unprofessional, object failure and Boston's casualties is the shit on DHS ineffective hands. The blood is on the hands of the bombers.

It is commonly known that honey traps catch wannabe bombers. Unfortunately, it is now commonly known that bureaucrats crushing the Constitution can't catch real bombers. Why continue paying them for crossing us rather than the killers they claim to be hunting?

Shame on the Feds, you are failing the people who pay your check and who you take an oath to protect. How much lower can you go before you resign out of respect what little dignity you have left? Stand up guys wouldn't lay down the crap you are putting out, and that includes the AG and the IRS liars.

When Justice and Treasury officials are a mockery of integrity, it is time for the election of somebody new to office. The current crop of elected bottom-suckers should all be replaced. We get that opportunity every two years, but no one wants to buck the current daisy-chain system. American needs to trust its courts and legal foundation and the jerks in charge now are not building that trust.

Next time, vote  for the new guy!



medium giraffe's picture

Security, freedom, deserve neither etc?



willwork4food's picture

I want the freedom to drink my COLD beer and watch TV and the SECURITY that allows me to do that!

(providing i dont get get kicked out of my own house during a massive city NSA lockdown-which is only good for America!)

Diamond Jim's picture

guess I should put a condom on my "telescreen" so when i get bent over by it i won't get any transmitted diseases.............this is a slippery slope Comrades, Big Brother is watching.......just got done reading "1984' again and have new empathy with Winston.

Disenchanted's picture

See The Shadow Factory by James Bamford - Released in 2008...I think? Too lazy to go to the bookshelf and look at the copyright date.

This stuff was happening even before 9/11...before cell phones, emails and faxes.

Underwater comunications cables, satellite comms...everything


Winston Smith 2009's picture

You don't have to buy the DVD or rent it.  It's legally on-line to view:

Note one of the huge revelations made in this four year old PBS program - they didn't fail to prevent 9/11 due to a lack of intel resources, they failed to prevent 9/11 due to incompetence and bureaucratic turf battles.  But, of course, as with any government program, when it fails, they claim that it failed due to inadequate information and resources.  Bullshit.  We have spent around $1 trillion since 9/11 on police state infrastructure that wasn't needed!

dunce's picture

TSA has about 50,000 employees that have never caught a terrorist . They are not organized to control terrorists they are organized to control you.