The National Security Agency has the capability to replay all telephone calls for 30 days from an entire country, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden by the Washington Post.
“The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording ‘100 percent’ of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place,” writes The Post.
The Post withheld the name of the country currently being surveilled under code name “MYSTIC” to protect on-going operations. The report said that MYSTIC was begun in 2009 and reached full capacity in 2011.
The NSA claims it needs this ability because emerging threats are “often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.”
Though the NSA is required by law to minimize the surveillance of innocent people, especially Americans, it is difficult to do with massive sweeps. “Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving Americans would be gathered,” explains The Post.
President Obama has proposed several reforms to intelligence surveillance, including one idea that may store bulk phone and Internet data with private companies, and require the government to request the data each time.
Nearly all of the significant intelligence reforms must wait until congress takes up the issue later this year.
Read the full report and explore some of the leaked slides here.