BREAKING: NSA Has Massive Database of Americans’ Phone Calls

Good thing we installed that intricate secret network of tin cans and string. Reports USA TODAY:

    “The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

    The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.”

The only company that declined to participate was Qwest. Every other major telco was more than happy to sell their phone records to the feds.

Read more at USA TODAY, your one-stop source for hard-hitting investigative coverage. Gee, could such a big story leak be politically motivated? (Thanks to Kos and Matthew for the link!)

If you would like to complain or switch service providers, here’s a lil compendium of numbers and websites to do so.

Comments

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  1. Ben says:

    I wanna know who Ken Lay has been talking to. And now the government knows my dirty secret: I don’t call my mom NEARLY enough.

  2. KevinQ says:

    Man, and here I am having to pay for people’s phone records, while the NSA is getting them for free. Talk about unfair…

    K

  3. Rick Dobbs says:

    So, not only are people overpaying for phone service if they’re using one of these major providers, but their taxes are going to purchase these lists.

    Damn, I wish I hadn’t seen V for Vendetta. There’s just too many links for me now.

  4. Drinker Nisti says:

    Hmmm… I’m now thinking twice about switching my T-Mobile cell service. Coverage bites, but at least Uncle Sam doesn’t know who I’m talking to…

  5. SpecialK says:

    I think I read something about this in The Atlantic recently … i.e., this is hardly new. In fact, the most interesting thing was that Western Union used to do this with telegrams back in the day, printing out two copies of every telegram sent and giving actual hard copies to the feds. That’s a lot of damn paper.

  6. Virgin Mobile has been storing not only call records but location records of those calls since 1999 and storing them permanently…

    Sounds scary, but I’m with Ben on this one…any terrorists worth their salt aren’t going to leave a discernable electronic footprint, so all the NSA is going to discover is that we don’t call our mothers enough…hell, I bet even the mystery cell phone bandito telemarketers won’t get caught using this data.

  7. OkiMike says:

    As a database administrator for the government, allow me to clarify some points.

    I enjoy reading such articles in the media because I know the spin that is put on them, yet the truth of “storing numbers in a database” is hardly glamorous. What makes this data so valuable depends on the types of queries that can be run against it.

    For example, I can develop an algorithm (or search pattern) to identify lists of individuals who make calls to known numbers of terrorists, what time such calls were made, etc. The value of these queries is only as good as the leads it produces.

    When the politicians say that they are not interested in the details of law abiding Americans, what they mean is that unless your name falls within our search parameters of known terrorist contacts, etc. then your entry in the database will never be looked at and it’s as if you were never really in database at all.

    Personally, I find such worry among the public interesting, but it can only foster through contentions of conspiracy and ignorance.

  8. konstantConsumer says:

    while that sounds all fine a good, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a warrentless search. it is illegal for phone companies to give this information and it is illegal for the government to get this information. it certainly would be easier to track people is we put transmitters in everyones’ necks (granted this is a large leap), but we don’t do that because it is illegal. as in, against the law, agains the constitution, and against what we are suppose to be protecting.

  9. Grady says:

    OkiMikeWrong site for the Chuck Norris cliche.

    How do I know you’re a troll? A real data-miner knows that there’s more to be done with a database than query it for names.

  10. OkiMike says:

    Grady, nice attempt! However…a few points are in order:

    1. Data mining, on any level, interests itself in paring down known data into smaller, more useful subsets. In other words, you make filters that work off of known information and return information that may be related to what is known. If you don’t, your reports become vague and useless.

    2. While algorithms that search for various broad patterns may return previously unknown individuals, such data is useless unless further analysis can show that it has merit and can be tied to existing criminal patterns (or whatever activity is held of interest to that particular organization).

    3. Trolls are attracted to Star Trek and Roswell conventions, not governmental database positions.