NSA 'Time Machine' Can Record All Calls in a Nation

It can also replay the voices at any time within 30 days
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2014 12:12 PM CDT
NSA 'Time Machine' Can Record All Calls in a Nation
The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Washington Post has a new NSA scoop courtesy of Edward Snowden that is only going to heighten the Big Brother fears. It seems the agency has a program called MYSTIC that can record every phone call in a foreign country—and this isn't metadata, it's actual voice recordings. One program manager likens it to a "time machine" because it allows the NSA to replay individual calls within a 30-day window. What's more, this isn't just theory—MYSTIC and a related tool called RETRO "reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011," write Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani. The Post is not offering details that could identify the country.

MYSTIC has worked so well that the NSA was planning as recently as last year to expand it to other nations, though it's unclear whether that has happened. Its creators are apparently so impressed with MYSTIC's whiz-bang capabilities that the program's emblem is a Merlin-like character with a telephone at the end of a staff. "The first concern—among many—that comes to mind here is the strong possibility that Americans are unwittingly being spied on while these calls are recorded," writes Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. "After all, if 100% of a country's calls are going on the record, it seems unavoidable that American voices would be heard." An NSA spokesperson said the agency's work is “strictly conducted under the rule of law.” Click to read the full story in the Post. (More NSA stories.)

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