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Report: NSA Can Swallow a "Nation’s Telephone Network Whole"

Washington Post reveals NSA can store, replay 100 percent of calls in a foreign country

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

The National Security Agency has the ability to record every single phone call made in an unnamed foreign country and can rewind and revisit those calls up to a month later, The Washington Post revealed Tuesday.

Citing "people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden," reporters Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani outline the NSA's "MYSTIC" voice interception program and its RETRO (retrospective retrieval) tool, which was first used against a country in 2011.

"In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary," according to The Washington Post.

While the report's authors did not disclose which country this occurred in, at the request of the NSA, they note that documents indicate "similar operations elsewhere."

"No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole," note the authors.

“This is a truly chilling story, and it’s one that underscores how high the stakes are in the debate we’re now having about bulk surveillance," said Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, in a statement released Tuesday. "The NSA has always wanted to record everything, and now it has the capacity to do so."


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