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The NSA Knows Who You've Called

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the at-least-i-know-i'm-free dept.

1136

Magnifico writes "USAToday is reporting on the National Security Agency's goal to create a database of every call ever made inside the USA. Aided by the cooperation of US telecom corporations, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of tens of millions of Americans; the vast majority of whom aren't suspected of any crime. Only Qwest refused to give the NSA information because they were uneasy about giving information to the government without the proper warrants. The usefulness of the NSA's domestic phone call database as a counterterrorism tool is unclear."

Jamie adds: Traditionally, the devices which record dialed phone numbers are called pen registers, and trap-and-trace devices. The ECPA provided some legal privacy protection. It was controversial when Section 214 of the Patriot Act amended 50 USC 1842 to allow the FBI to record this information with minimal oversight. The Department of Justice has been required for some time to report to Congress the number of pen registers and trap-and-traces, though in recent years [PDF, see question 10] it declared that information classified.

If anyone has information about how the NSA, as opposed to the FBI, has been involved in domestic phone number collection, please post links in the discussion.

In related news, the National Security Agency has closed down an inquiry into the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," a separate program from this one, by refusing to grant security clearance to the lawyers in the Department of Justice. The NSA and the DoJ are both established under the executive.

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The NSA should take aim at Qwest. (5, Funny)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307315)

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database.
Clearly, Qwest is a nest of terrorists.

I for one suggest NSA take aim at Qwest and bomb them back to to the PSTN-age!

Re:The NSA should take aim at Qwest. (1)

spamking (967666) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307383)

I don't know if Qwest is a bunch of terrorists or not, but their service wasn't the world's best back when I was a customer. I'm sure the NSA could get their hands on the data if they wanted to (if they haven't already).

What about Sprint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307498)

Where do they (and the new local spinoff, Embarq) sit in all of this?

Way to go USA Today. Way to be comprehensive in your reporting.

Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307316)

What an awesome tool for a government agency to have!

You know what I love? Scenarios! How about this one: You're arrested as a suspect for a crime you didn't commit. The government doesn't have anything on you except that there are no other suspects or witnesses. What they do have, is a network of vertices (phones) and edges (calls) spanning the past year of your life. They also have a list of "dirty" nodes or telephone users who have a rap sheet or ties to anti-American groups.

Thanks to Dijkstra's [wikipedia.org] & the Bellman-Ford [wikipedia.org] algorithms, it's a hop skip and a jump to a prosecutor saying "we have records showing you called your mother on such and such date prompting her to call her hair dresser who has been forwarding money to his family living in Mexico that has ties to Islamic Extremist groups!"

Farfetched? Maybe. But you don't have to be a Sci-Fi author to imagine crazy abuses of this data.

In the eyes of the government, we are all innocent until proven guilty. This could easily be turned into a data mining tool making some of us "less innocent" than others. And frankly, I'm not looking forward to that day.

<tinhat> Imagine a time and place where you have a security rating ... you approach an airport terminal and hand them your ID card (or scan your arm) but you can't board the plane because you've been making too many phone calls to your friends who happen to have a rap sheet. </tinhat>

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307349)

Parent wrote: Imagine a time and place where you have a security rating ... you approach an airport terminal and hand them your ID card (or scan your arm) but you can't board the plane because you've been making too many phone calls to your friends who happen to have a rap sheet.


Seems less intrusive and better for people's safety than the credit ratings that are used to discriminate against people instead.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (5, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307368)

"In the eyes of the government, we are all innocent until proven guilty."

No, in the eyes of the government, we are all assets, and are protected as such. Any asset or group of asset wishing to upset the status quo is moved to the basement, the same way I had to move my circa 1970 pole lamp because it clashed with, well, everything.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (2, Insightful)

nfgaida (68606) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307377)

In the eyes of the government, we are all innocent until proven guilty.

I think that the way the government has been behaving lately, it is more the other way around.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (1, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307379)

Imagine a time and place where you have a security rating ... you approach an airport terminal and hand them your ID card (or scan your arm) but you can't board the plane because you've been making too many phone calls to your friends who happen to have a rap sheet.

Dude, you can put those tinhat tags away - do you really think you can't get on the do-not-fly list because of suspicious phone calls now?

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307408)

You've seen the movie "6 degrees of separation"? Given a sufficiently large degree of separation value you can pretty much link any one to anyone else. It's not a very large number either (not as low as 6 though).

This sort of data mining tool already exists. I used to work for the company that made the first functional implementation of it. Linking everyone to everyone else was one of the little parlour tricks they did during the testing and demo process.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (2, Funny)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307482)

What degree of "fan out" do you need to go from one to 6 billion in six easy steps?

Fans of Douglas Adams rejoice: 42. And a little bit.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (1)

elzurawka (671029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307416)

And whats going to happen next? The NSA starts to sniff every packet that goes though your ISP. Suddenly your arrested for saying something your shouldnt have in a MSN or IRC conversation. Its the same idea, just how long till they catch on that they can screw us this way too?

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (4, Funny)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307446)

it's a hop skip and a jump to a prosecutor saying "we have records showing you called your mother on such and such date prompting her to call her hair dresser who has been forwarding money to his family living in Mexico that has ties to Islamic Extremist groups!"

Then the government would have to explain why it has not captured the mastermind who lies at the heart of this six degreed web of terror:

Kevin Bacon.

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (5, Insightful)

bombadillo (706765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307451)

"Farfetched? Maybe. But you don't have to be a Sci-Fi author to imagine crazy abuses of this data.

You only have to have lived through the McCarthy era to imagine the abuses...

Re:Oh, the Abuses We'll See! (5, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307466)

What, do you really think the database will be used for plausible terrorism exercises?

Just think of what database searches will be fired off before the next election. I'm sure the outgoing Bush administration will know more about the democratic challenger than even they know about themselves. And as this program was started in 2001 who knows if it was used last election or not. There was some mighty bad stuff about Kerry that leaked... Not that any politician would abuse a position of power for something as petty as getting re-elected.

This year's prognosis is the same as last: Screwed.

Mandate to fight terror (1, Insightful)

amightywind (691887) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307475)

Thanks to Dijkstra's [wikipedia.org] & the Bellman-Ford [wikipedia.org] algorithms, it's a hop skip and a jump to a prosecutor saying "we have records showing you called your mother on such and such date prompting her to call her hair dresser who has been forwarding money to his family living in Mexico that has ties to Islamic Extremist groups!"

Impressive name dropping. Too bad you don't know what you are talking about. The NSA does not use minimal path algorithms to search for records. The phone company switching equipment might have used them to construct the original call circuit.

In the eyes of the government, we are all innocent until proven guilty.

The desire of the vast majority of Americans to root out terror in the US has given the government the mandate to use communication records. The nefarious behavior of the government goes only as far as that mandate. If you want to rail against someone for the loss of privacy, rail against the great silent majority in America who will not tolerate a repeat of 911.

Voluntary Submission to Observation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307494)

Now, you know, it is completely your fault. If you would have simply done like your good neighbors and *voluntarily* installed the Homeland Protection (tm) device in your house, we could have reviewed your conversation with your mother to determine your innocence. But, alas, you didn't want this invasion of privacy since you're most likely a leftist terrorist cell leader [1].

Good luck and thanks for all the fish.

[1] we have lots of techniques in far off places that
        can be used to extract your confession

Qwest baby... (2, Insightful)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307327)

here I come! Down you filthy Verizon, AT&T (aka SBC) and BellSouth dogs!

Re:Qwest baby... (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307504)

Just wait. Eventually the Federal government will force Qwest to "participate" in the NSA program. One way or another, all telecoms will have to send all their data to D.C. If the Federal government can force ISPs to retain their logs indefinitely, they sure as hell can force Qwest to send its data to the NSA.

This is not a troll.......... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307332)

America sucks. It didn't use to. But it sucks now.
Land of the free my ass. I want the word free taken off all anthems, pledges, etc. It is pure propaganda now.

Re:This is not a troll.......... (-1, Troll)

blcamp (211756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307375)


Perhaps you prefer a more suitable homeland, such as the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea?

Re:This is not a troll.......... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307444)

No but how about Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Japan, India, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Belgium, UK, Czeck Republic, Austria, Australia, New Zealand ... and tons of other countries?

Re:This is not a troll.......... (1)

Hrshgn (595514) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307452)

Oh yeah, just compare something bad to something even badder. This makes everybody feel SOOOOO good.

Re:This is not a troll.......... (2, Insightful)

standbypowerguy (698339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307465)

So what you're saying is that because US citizens arguably have more freedom than the citizens of some other nations is good enough? I doubt the founding fathers would agree.

Re:This is not a troll.......... (5, Insightful)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307480)

Yeah, and the US is much better???

What amazes me about the US is that I constantly hear from many of the people there how great a country is because it's free. Freedom, freedom, "land of the FREE", etc etc etc. Most of this sort of shit comes from the people who SUPPORT the opposite of freedom like that scary government you guys have got. Where I'm from (New Zealand) we don't go on about how great it is to be free because we live it. It's normal to us, it's what we're used to we take it for granted and that's the way it should be. I'm sure many will argue that point that it can't be taken for granted and say things like, "Your Freedom should be DEFENDED". Maybe for you but not for me. If it's not being attacked it doesn't need defence.
We don't have no NSA, FBI, CIA, weird gun laws, death penalties and when it comes to crime - shit if a cat gets stuck up a tree it's basically front page news!

The USA and Korea are not the two extremes of the world - get out and travel a bit more, I think you may be surprised what your country is missing.

Re:This is not a troll.......... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307493)

North Korea? That actually might be a good idea. Who the hell knows, with all the propaganda and lies flying about?

The country I would REALLY like to live in used to be located where the USA now is. A country with actual moral values (instead of the Christian Crap that includes torture and is based on children's-level "authority") and a philosophy that included such things as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

A land now dead, I fear, sold to the highest corporate bidder by sleazy politicians for a few trinkets and 15 minutes in a brothel.

Re:This is not a troll.......... (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307448)

I want the word free taken off all anthems, pledges, etc

Nah, you just need to get the legal department to add some disclaimers. For example:

"Land of the free (except where such freedom may be deemed by government agencies to conflict with the ability of the state to protect any such notional freedom from any perceived external or internal theats)"

"I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty (see disclaimer under freedom) and justice (pursuant to the ability of the pledgee to afford the aforesaid justice) for all."

Problem solved!

Nothing like changing the story headline... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307339)

Just to make it worse. So, from "The NSA wants to create the biggest call database" to "The NSA knows who you call". Are you sure you guys don't work for the big news outlets?

MOD PARENT UP! (1)

Virak (897071) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307435)

There was no reason to change the title; the previous one [imageshack.us] was more informative, and a lot less flamebaitish.

UK (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307343)

Thank goodness the UK isn't planning anything like that. I'd feel uneasy even making short personal, and innocent crime-free calls if they were logging every number I ever spoke to.

Re:UK (4, Informative)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307386)

Thank goodness the UK isn't planning anything like that.

One (TLA) word for you: GCHQ.

Think NSA without the silly "no-domestic-spying" rule.

Have a nice day.

Re:UK (4, Insightful)

mirio (225059) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307404)

No, the UK just plans to track every single car's movement using a series of cameras that read license plates, and they video every square inch of public space. It's not any better, just different.

Re:UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307419)

And how do YOU know that the UK does NOT have such a programme?

Re:UK (1)

lakin (702310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307481)

That may be so, but at least our great British leaders arnt introducing a basically compulsary national biometric id database... Oh...

Re:UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307405)

I would imagine that this has been quietly happening in the UK for many, many years. That would be the British way of doing things: it's certainly been possible since the 1970s.

Britain is further along the line towards being a Total Surveillance State than the U.S. -- CCTV and number-plate reader cameras already deployed, with ID cards and GPS in every car (yes, really -- the government proposal is in today's UK newspapers) on the way.

Re:UK (2, Interesting)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307513)

You're serious?

But we've got CCTV cameras everwhere, cameras that read license plates, and Id cards coming soon.

It's a Lot Worse Than You Think!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307344)

It's a lot worse than you think. The NSA also knows that you have a tiny pecker! In fact, it is the NSA that put your email address on the mailing lists of all of these online pharmaceutical companies.

At least a tech sector storage boom? (4, Interesting)

BrynM (217883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307355)

Man, the NSA must have servers the size of Steven Colbert's galvanized balls. This and the Google search request they made represent massive data sets.
The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders
Are they really going through old records as well? "Ever made" is a pretty big term, but I'm betting there are lots of old call records on legacy systems and paper out there. Do they have agreements with the companies in question to provide aggregate data for marketing purposes? I also wonder what points they're getting the data from. There's a lot of people and companies spoofing ANI with Asterisk or similar boxes these days. This is a government database though... how clean can that data be? That cleanliness, of course, makes the situation better and worse at the same time. If someone reading has more operational knowledge of telcos and how the call records themselves are transmitted, please post clarifications.

So many questions, but me no longer wonders how those biggie telco mergers got past regulators anymore...

Re:At least a tech sector storage boom? (1)

gkuz (706134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307464)

Man, the NSA must have servers the size of Steven Colbert's galvanized balls.

Yes. They're called mainframes. Didn't you read the story the other day (too lazy to link) about how they're not going away? At NSA, they never did.

Re:At least a tech sector storage boom? (2, Funny)

denissmith (31123) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307474)

They've even got the first call logged: " Watson, come here I need you!", they are really that good! And you thought American Intelligence agencies were bumbling idiots who couldn't predict disastrous events if our lives depended on it.

Six Degrees of Separation Test (2, Interesting)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307358)

I'm sure they're just testing the Six Degrees of Separation hypothesis.

Seriously, though, how long until they use this information for the "War on Drugs?" Hunting down anyone who ever spoke on the phone with a drug dealer? Oh, wait... someone's pounding on my door right now.

Re:Six Degrees of Separation Test (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307508)

how long until they use this information for the "War on Drugs?"

They've been using this type of information for the WoD for decades. I expect that most of the impetus for this program came from drug warriors -- who, after three decades of constant war against the American populace, have gotten pretty good at spying on Americans.

I feel good about this... (0)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307361)

Knowing that taxpayer money is being used to index the fact that I call:
- My mom
- Your mom
- Papa John's

No really, this is great.

great (1)

racebit (959234) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307363)

...I can see it now, "Mr. Racebit, it appears to county officials that you make extremely frequent calls to your grandmother. As a counter-measure to terrorism, we will have to limit the amount of outgoing calls to her number for the safety & well-being of the community."

how embarrasing

serious question (1, Flamebait)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307365)

is there any american who is proud of the way their country treats its citizens anymore? I'm from the UK where we are pretty fierce about our privacy - well I certainly am - and I simply can't understand how this can happen.

really, it's time to immigrate people. or perhap do something, depends how far up americas ass it's finger is.

Re:serious question (3, Insightful)

TheArtfulPianist (973380) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307414)

How do you guys over there feel about the ubiquitous video surveillance?

Re:serious question (1)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307436)

very uncomfortable. It's something I campaign against. I'm not taking digs, this isn't a UK is better than US, it's simply a how did it come to this. wake up, pull your collective fingers out before it's too late and you no longer have the choice. Am I being alarmist, possibly. Is there a grain of truth to what I say, definately.

Re:serious question (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307449)

I'm from the UK where we are pretty fierce about our privacy

Since when? We're getting not just this, but all emails sent via an ISP's mail servers recorded as well (and they've convinced the rest of the EU to go along with it). Where's the public uproar?

Re:serious question (3, Insightful)

ryturner (87582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307468)


is there any american who is proud of the way their country treats its citizens anymore? I'm from the UK where we are pretty fierce about our privacy - well I certainly am - and I simply can't understand how this can happen.

really, it's time to immigrate people. or perhap do something, depends how far up americas ass it's finger is.

Yes, there are some things that other countries do better than the United States. Privacy is probably one of them. But there are many other things that the United States does better than other countries. The UK for example, does not allow its citizens to own handguns. Germany restricts what its citizens can say about the holocaust. France has very restrictive labor laws. If you are really thinking about moving somewhere else, you might want to consider all of the laws in a particular country, not just privacy.

Re:serious question (3, Insightful)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307500)

..the United States does better than other countries. The UK for example, does not allow its citizens to own handguns.

You do realize that most people in the UK would feel that you have that one backwards? - Not allowing handgins is seen as a good thing.

Jam the database! (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307369)

Call twenty or more random numbers a day.

Re:Jam the database! (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307400)

Call twenty or more random numbers a day.

And end up on twenty random blacklists a day -- terrorists, anti-bush, drugs, child pr0n, etc.

Random == noise (1)

xixax (44677) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307476)

Random won't cut it because people keep calling their cell leader, dope dealer etc. Nodes are nodes.

Better use VoIP through some kind of anonymous proxy.

Xix.

Can you hear me now? (5, Interesting)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307370)

Actually Bin Laden came that close to being snuffed by the NSA, since they have tapes of him talking to his mother by sat-phone, while he was in Afghanistan and she was in Saudi Arabia. This is why Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan using long-range cruise missiles. They missed him, too, by a few minutes, unfortunately.

Of course, last I heard, he only used trusted human couriers to deliver messages. He may be a madman, but he is a smart madman. And most of these couriers were not American, but Pakistani and Saudi citizens, and they try to be as discreet -- and "un-islamist" as possible. So the NSA domestic spying program is definitely not useful against terrorists. But remember, kids, if we can't listen to your phone, the terrorists have won!

Re:Can you hear me now? (4, Insightful)

thelost (808451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307415)

while i don't for a moment condone anything bin laden had done he's definately not a mad man, he has an ideological viewpoint that is in extreme opposite of Americas/The Wests. His actions are a consequence of that. His actions are not just his own, but representative of a greater movement and can't be argued away simply by madness.

This was obvious a year ago (4, Insightful)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307378)

Anyone who didn't see this one coming hasn't been paying attention. When Risen at the NYTimes revealed the 'turrst surveillance program' (to give it its Orwellian name) every single indication was that this was the tip of the iceberg, from Abu Gonzalez' evasive testimony to Congress (specifically all the overly definitive "this program" statements) to the fact that TIA never really went away, it just moved from DARPA to Fort Meade. Add in the recent testimony of that AT&T employee about the NSA tap room in SF, well, duhh. Still to come - every single international call is monitored, to match voice patterns. Keyword analysis is (AFAIK) still a black art but identifying the recipients through voicewaves is old hat. So when Mr Bush says "we want to know who's talking to terrorists" he means it literally, and after the fact, not before. Of course, the NSA measure computing power not in flops, or MIPs, but in acres, so it's anyone's guess what the corporations turned around and agreed to after 9/11. FISA would never have covered this wholesale data mining, congress would never have authorised it, so we're back to that old chestnut, "we're at war" Of course I live in the UK, where we have no expectation of privacy and the fact that GCHQ is routinely spying on every single one of us goes uninvestigated and unremarked. In some ways the US is ahead of us on this. Why don't the democrats propose a constitutional right to privacy? How would the GOP argue against privacy from government? Their voters heads would explode... federal government..

Re:This was obvious a year ago (-1, Offtopic)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307403)

Gah, I keep forgetting that slashdot's comments system is about 8 years behind anyone else's

Feel free to imagine line breaks where I left blank lines in the above. Stupid fucking slashcode.

Re:This was obvious a year ago (1)

BenBenBen (249969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307425)

(Mod parent down, and code a decent comments system?)

Anyone who didn't see this one coming hasn't been paying attention.

When Risen at the NYTimes revealed the 'turrst surveillance program' (to give it its Orwellian name) every single indication was that this was the tip of the iceberg, from Abu Gonzalez' evasive testimony to Congress (specifically all the overly definitive "this program" statements) to the fact that TIA never really went away, it just moved from DARPA to Fort Meade. Add in the recent testimony of that AT&T employee about the NSA tap room in SF, well, duhh.

Still to come - every single international call is monitored, to match voice patterns. Keyword analysis is (AFAIK) still a black art but identifying the recipients through voicewaves is old hat. So when Mr Bush says "we want to know who's talking to terrorists" he means it literally, and after the fact, not before. Of course, the NSA measure computing power not in flops, or MIPs, but in acres, so it's anyone's guess what the corporations turned around and agreed to after 9/11.

FISA would never have covered this wholesale data mining, congress would never have authorised it, so we're back to that old chestnut, "we're at war".

Of course I live in the UK, where we have no expectation of privacy and the fact that GCHQ is routinely spying on every single one of us goes uninvestigated and unremarked.

Why don't the democrats propose a constitutional right to privacy? How would the GOP argue against privacy from government? Their voters heads would explode... federal government.. privacy... ARGH [boom]

Re:This was obvious a year ago (1)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307434)

the NSA measure computing power not in flops, or MIPs, but in acres

I measure your IQ in nanometers.

Net-casting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307382)

"The usefulness of the NSA's domestic phone call database as a counterterrorism tool is unclear.""

Just think of how many politicians, government officials (foreign and domestic) and captains of industry (ditto) will be caught in this net. Even if we don't catch terrorists the blackmail potential will be priceless.

What about VoIP? (1)

chord.wav (599850) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307387)

What about VoIP? Or are they still secret about this one?

With all that data, imagine the patterns waiting to be discovered and how much can it (the data) tell about society...

0.00001% of Slashdotters actually get phone calls not involving work

Hey, look on the bright side! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307397)

It might (just might) make telemarketers think twice 'bout cold calling. After all, they COULD phone some terrorist...

Seriously now. COULD it help? Yes. WILL it help? Most likely not. Ever tried to find the needle in a haystick? At best, it can give a clue to a terrorist's buddies AFTER the crime has been commited. But, since they're not dumb either, they'll be gone by that time.

So, at best, it is a tool for snooping at the population.

Now I have to change my answering machine message (5, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307399)

Currently it's a simple message saying I'm not available and to leave a message. Now I'll have to add:

Be aware that the National Security Agency may be recording this call and anything you say may be used against you. I have no control over this situation as my phone provider is turning over this information on all its customers to the NSA.

Can't wait to hear the questions about this when people start calling.

Will it change my neighbor's mind? (3, Insightful)

Yardboy (742224) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307401)

My neighbor has head-in-sand mentality. He believes that (a) since he doesn't commit crimes, the gov't will not surveil him, and (b) since he doesn't commit crimes, even if they do surveil him he doesn't care, and (c) if he ever does commit a crime, then the gov't can surveil him, with or without a warrant, since he deserves it. Now that the gov't has collected his phone records without a warrant (we live in BellSouth territory), I wonder if it will change his mind?

Re:Will it change my neighbor's mind? (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307433)

He must be of the stripe that anything illegal is wrong, which is a perfect example of begging the question [nizkor.org] .

What's in it for the Telcos? (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307406)

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made -- across town or across the country -- to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

And later on...

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.

The telcos stand to make out like gangbusters: a) they ingratiate themselves to the military and the government, which will come in handy to defeat Net Neutrality legislation, b) they can sit there and claim plausible deniability when someone brings suit against them because their phone records were used against them in court wrogfully, as they claim they're not supplying personal information to the NSA and c) the NSA, by running these algorithms and tracing calling patterns is generating data that could potentially be used by them to modify call routing schemes, change marketing penetration, and generally give them access to potentially useful information, which I'm sure the NSA will be only too happy to provide, to gain further cooperation.

Seems as if the telcos are now firmly in bed with the government and will pretty soon be able to write their own ticket to profits on the backs of taxpayers. Are all these illegal immigrants sure they want to be in this country?

Okay, where are the l33t Ub3r h4ck3rs? (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307410)

Let's get this bitch broken open and leaked all over. Then we'll see how long the program remains under the guise of "we're only looking for terrorists".

Dump the thing, and datamine the fuck out of it. I would love to not only be able to harass the guy who misdialed my number at three in the morning, but everyone he called in that month, then explain to them, Oh, it's your drunk friends fault, and the NSA's.

Because they can do anything in the name of NS! (1)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307411)

Why do they do it? because they can and because they believe it may be useful - easy to create a database with easily obtainable data with information that they believe may be useful - I don't think there's a master plan to it - it's more like, "let's do it cos we can". And when they give themselves a reason of NATIONAL SECURITY they make it very hard to argue against. If they honestly believe it may be useful of course they're going to do it, especially when it's in the name of "National Security".

And? (2, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307413)

So everyone here is going to complain about this. A few people will post links to email your congressman. A few less will troll by using the "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide" excuse.

Let us hope to our respective dieties that the Democrats gain control of at least 1 house of Congress in 2007. Perhaps, in a long shot, they might put an end to these blatantly unconstitutional programs. Then again, I don't trust them to do that too much.

Perhaps it is time for Americans of all stripes (liberals, conservatives, socialists, libertarians, anarchists, etc.) to invoke the rebellion clause of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps it is past time for the tree of liberty to be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

If you're not ready to be shipped to Gitmo, at the very least ask your state representative(s) to call for a constitutional convention. If 38 states call for one, we can try to get back on the right track to liberty and a government more respectful of those liberties.

The NSA should partner with SETI! (0)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307417)

When ET phones home, we can finally have definitive proof of alien presence here on earth!

So... (0)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307418)

...who you gonna call?

To anyone who has a problem with this plan... (2, Insightful)

QCompson (675963) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307422)

Terror, terrorists, terror!!
9/11, terrorists, 9/11, terror!!
Think of the children! 9/11!!

Feel better now?

Could be used against whistleblowers, too. (2, Insightful)

George Maschke (699175) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307426)

This database might also be useful for trying to track down those pesky leakers. For example, a search could be done for all phone numbers that have called Dana Priest of the Washington Post or Jim Risen of the New York Times. According to independent journalist Wayne Madsen (himself a former NSA employee), the NSA has targeted journalists in a codeword project formerly called Firstfruits [antipolygraph.org] .

haha (0, Offtopic)

fixinah (809681) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307429)

they hate us because of our freedoms!

In Soviet America... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307432)

In Soviet America, the phones watch you.
And your friends.
And your relatives.
And your pizza shop.
And...
And...
And...
And...
And...
And...

Can someone who understands intelligence help me? (1)

stove (38601) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307442)

I've read two books on the history of the NSA and generally follow happenings in the intelligence community... So when I say I'm confused, hopefully it'll be on a higher level.
Isn't the NSA prohibited, by its charter, from doing this? And not in a way that's open to interpretation, but in a pretty hard and fast way? IIRC, I recall times the NSA had to dump captured communication traffic because one of the sides was an American in the US.
Can someone help me here?

Re:Can someone who understands intelligence help m (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307512)

"Isn't the NSA prohibited, by its charter, from doing this?"

Congress' "authorization for the use of force" repeals all sorts of things. Haven't you been paying attention to the news?

Just for *cough* fun *cough* (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307443)

If a few million people call the operator in a one-day period to ask how to buy an Iranian nuclear bomb, that should light up the NSA like a Christmas tree. I wouldn't be surprised if they went running to Congress to have their budget doubled after proving a "massive Iranian conspiracy" to smuggle a N-bomb into the USA.

People refuse to see the big picture (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307450)

One of the great things about the public education system is that it doesn't teach a critical understanding of historical events. Take police states for example. Most people in the US think they're built in a day and that a police state only exists when thugs in snazzy uniforms goosestep down the street. They not only don't know, but don't even want to know what leads up to the formation of a police state.

You know what does? People railing against one socio-political-economic class as the root problem of society. Newsflash, most classes are where they are for reasons they could have helped or legitimately earned. A pluralist society needs that class diversity to reinforce individualism. And let's not forget perceived enemies of all types. Then there's the "just give up part of your liberty and you'll be safe, if you've got nothing to hide of course." It's like gun control. There are a lot of cops out there who can't shoot worth a damn and police departments are legendary for resistance to change. Do you trust them with your daily safety? I don't.

When people say to you "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," you can respond (which I usually do) with "no decent, civilized person would ever have grounds to criticize the basic checks and balances that you oppose."

Six degrees of Al-Zarqawi (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307454)

So, how many Americans would suddenly become "suspected terrorists"?

Foxes (1)

Malakusen (961638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307455)

In related news, the National Security Agency has closed down an inquiry into the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," a separate program from this one, by refusing to grant security clearance to the lawyers in the Department of Justice. The NSA and the DoJ are both established under the executive.

In effect, the fox prosecutor shut down the investigation into whether or not the foxes committed a crime when they broke into the henhouse, saying that the fox prosecutor was not allowed to enter the fox den to look for feathers or chicken bits. But of course, no crimes were committed, the chickens probably just flew off. Honestly.

And on a side note, it appears that Qworst has finally FINALLY done something that doesn't piss me the hell off.

For everyone who doesn't see a problem with this, remember that you're only safe if every person working for the NSA with access to this information is a perfect person with no chance of ever using their information for illegal purposes. Wonder how long it will be before NSA sells its list to a marketing company. Or someone at the NSA sells the list to a marketing company.

Good news / Bad news (1)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307458)

Good News! This data probably isn't admissible in court.

Bad News! No court is involved in extrodinary redition. Enjoy the drugs and plane ride!

Was this article supposed to be about Startrek? (-1, Offtopic)

trelanexiph (605826) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307462)

( * Read More... * 1701 bytes in body * 7 of 9 comments * yro.slashdot.org )

I'm so confused.

Message from the NSA (4, Funny)

pubjames (468013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307463)

Dear Osama,

please can you start using the telephone more often? We're having real trouble finding where you are! It would help if you phoned one of your relatives, spoke loudly and clearly into the phone, and if you can say a few of our keywords that would be great.

Thanks!

The NSA

I guess I'm in trouble now..... (2, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307469)

.... as they likely know about my 1-900 phone sex habit.

Terrorist threat is minimal (5, Insightful)

alphorn (667624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307471)

Repeat after me: The terrorist threat is minimal.

In the last ten years, smoking has killed 4 million Americans. Traffic has killed 400.000. Terrorism has killed 4.000. When will you stop handing total power to the government just to fight this one, close to irrelevant risk? And why not spend those many billions on the healthcare system and traffic safety?

Great solution for noise polution (1)

Browzer (17971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307472)

Make sure you tell a friend about the article.

So proud not to be (1)

dlrow olleh (886534) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307473)

an American

Effective counter terrorism (5, Insightful)

slushbat (777142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307483)

I think you don't appreciate how clever this really is. Once the terrorists are no longer jealous of your freedom, they will lose interest and leave you alone. All the NSA has to do is remove all of your freedoms and the problem is solved.

How to use this information.... (1)

Rahga (13479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307484)

Supposedly the information doesn't actually contain things like people's names, or at least is not usable in that way without getting more information, probably by getting a warrant or asking the phone companies for more information about a specific user. This would most likely be useful to have a ready-to-go database (pile of evidence) that could not only link terror suspects to their record communictaions once they have been found, but to also bring in new leads connected to the suspect.

How to install country control system (5, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307488)

Step 1) Put the technological infrastructure in place
Step 2) Place your political friends and allies in charge of the infrastructure
Step 3) Reduce measures to control abuse of they system by claiming it's in the interests of "national security"
Step 4) Undermine the efforts of your political enemies with your newfound power

*ahem* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307490)

The usefulness of the NSA's domestic phone call database as a counterterrorism tool is unclear.

That's easy. They'll just expand the definition of "terrorist" like they've been doing the past 5 years until it is useful to them.

Never in my life (4, Insightful)

koehn (575405) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307496)

Never did I think I'd actually be glad to be a Qwest customer. I mean, after all the rolling over that Qwest has done, all the anti-customer behavior, I'm surprised they took the moral high ground.

Oh, wait. They didn't, they were just afraid they'd get sued.

Numbers don't add up... (3, Funny)

Xichekolas (908635) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307499)

"a database of every call ever made inside the USA" ... "has been secretly collecting phone call records of tens of millions of Americans"

Man, there are waaaay more than 10 million Americans... but I guess they probably have no reason to record the calls of the Religious Right or people watching Fox News... since they are good little toadies... so that probably cuts it down to size...

Do you need a bigger signal?! (2, Interesting)

BlackMesaLabs (893043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307505)

Do you Americans need a more obvious signal?? How fucking stupid are you!? You sit on your ass doing nothing while you lose every freedom you have- you wont ever notice they're all gone! not even when you're in some slave labour camp!! you all believe what they tell you! No wonder the rest of the world sees Americans as ignorant.
Now is the time to use that 2nd ammendment you are so proud of!
Or would you prefer to wait until you're all handcuffed to each other on a chain-gang?

what about cell phones (3, Interesting)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307507)

does this include t-mobile and cellular-only companies?

9-11 was a wet dream come true for the government. (4, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307514)

It only costs a few buildings, over 3,000 lives but man oh man look at all the great stuff you can do now. You can run roughshod over civil rights and the population will let you do it!

Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism, OMG TERRORISM!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep your population on edge with a color coded system so they won't question anything. Oh need to raise the level..Is your bathroom breeding terrorists?

Terrorism is the new Communism(tm)

Calls go both ways (1)

Alchemar (720449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307515)

Everyone is making comments about what if they called someone who called someone. With this system, if they want to get a warrent for you, they just have to have someone with the same name as someone on the "no fly list" to call you at 2:00 am every morning for a couple of days. You can control who you call, but you can't control who calls you.

Usefulness as an anti-terrorism tool (1)

krem81 (578167) | more than 8 years ago | (#15307516)

The usefulness of the NSA's domestic phone call database as a counterterrorism tool is unclear."

Unclear to whom? It's plenty clear to me: you nab a terrorist suspect, find out who he or she called and follow up with further inquiries.

Not to say that this usefulness justifies the massive invasion of privacy that goes along with it, but just because the technology is "bad", doesn't mean it's useless.

Does anybody know anything about these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15307517)

Does anybody know anything about these programs?

-- the Defense Intelligence Agency's Human Factors Analysis Center
-- the National Security Agency's Electronic Space Analysis Center
-- the "Global Harvest" office of the military's Joint Information Operations Center (San Antonio, Tex.)
-- the U.S. Strategic Command's "Night Fist Evaluation Cell"

They seem to be engaged in similar tasks as well.
The surveillance is much more pervasive then anybody would lead us to believe. It's just a matter of time before we have scores of "enemy combatants" going to camps in Nevada (built and run by Halliburton, of course)
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