Former FBI Agent: All Phone Conversations are Recorded and Stored

So it seems the surveillance state just had its coming out party on CNN.  In this interview with Erin Burnett, former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente admits that the feds have access to pretty much everyone’s telephone conversations.  Also pay attention to the smirk on his face as he admits this disturbing reality.


Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian wrote an excellent piece yesterday on this exact topic.  Some of my favorite excerpts:

The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

Over the past couple days, cable news tabloid shows such as CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett have been excitingly focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As part of their relentless stream of leaks uncritically disseminated by our Adversarial Press Corps, anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.

“All of that stuff” – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – “is being captured as we speak”.

Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure”, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.

There have been some previous indications that this is true. FormerAT&T engineer Mark Klein revealed that AT&T and other telecoms had built a special network that allowed the National Security Agency full and unfettered access to data about the telephone calls and the content of email communications for all of their customers. Specifically, Klein explained “that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” and that “contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists . . . much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.” But his amazing revelations were mostly ignored and, when Congress retroactively immunized the nation’s telecom giants for their participation in the illegal Bush spying programs, Klein’s claims (by design) were prevented from being adjudicated in court.

It would also help explain the revelations of former NSA official William Binney, who resigned from the agency in protest over its systemic spying on the domestic communications of US citizens, that the US government has “assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens” (which counts only communications transactions and not financial and other transactions), and that “the data that’s being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want.”

Strangely, back in 2002 – when hysteria over the 9/11 attacks (and thus acquiescence to government power) was at its peak – the Pentagon’s attempt to implement what it called the “Total Information Awareness” program (TIA) sparked so much public controversy that it had to be official scrapped. But it has been incrementally re-instituted – without the creepy (though honest) name and all-seeing-eye logo – with little controversy or even notice.

That no human communications can be allowed to take place without the scrutinizing eye of the US government is indeed the animating principle of the US Surveillance State. Still, this revelation, made in passing on CNN, that every single telephone call made by and among Americans is recorded and stored is something which most people undoubtedly do not know, even if the small group of people who focus on surveillance issues believed it to be true (clearly, both Burnett and Costello were shocked to hear this).

Oh and remember the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program created by DARPA Greenwald mentioned which the government was forced to scrap?  Yes, this really was the design for it.

tia

Freedom.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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8 Comments

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  1. You think this is new. It has been going on for years. I worked on a project in Dallas where GM was developing the equipment to record several hundred phone calls every minute and record them. I saw the equipment and talked to the people designing it. I was even at an air field north of Dallas when it was first tested in the late 1980s.

  2. Been in the telecommunications industry for 15 years as an engineer. It used to be that a court order was required to “spy”. And honestly up to about 5 years ago, the feds, well they are just engineering stupid. But in the last few years, someone built them some intelligence, as they now capture and decrypt every piece of data coming from everywhere and store it. It goes off to their little fun place and gets stored. From what I have heard from those working on that side of the house, they run an algorithm that searches through it all.

    There is no longer warrants signed by a judge. The information is just “mirrored” and sent off to mystery land.

  3. Of course IF I was the govt and I wanted to try and keep everyone in line, that’s EXACTLY the kind of bullshit story I’d make sure the press would repeat and repeat until everyone – well almost everyone – thought it to be the absolute gospel. Personally I think you give them too much….credit as I don’t think they’re that good. Oh sure once you are brought to their attention I could see some under their surveillance then. But to say every telephone call and email made by anyone/everyone since time began is recorded and stored somewhere in a big govt vault to be reviewed later is absolute bullshit. THEY AIN’T THAT GOOD though they sure you hope you think and act like that’s true. Every able bodied worker in the federal system couldn’t read or decipher anywhere near that amount of data. Like I said once you’re brought to their attention then all bets are off. But this is govt inspired science fiction at it’s finest otherwise.

    • I think you make a good point.

      • Of course he makes a good point, been around forever and is called propaganda! If the American people had been paying attention in Boston, we already live in the socialist police state and the government already does as it pleases.

  4. So what do you think the DHS’s 77 State Intelligence Fusion Centers were developed for in 2005 and have been established at each and every state in the union are for . . wake up ..

  5. Silverado- You are right that the Govt. does not have the Manpower to make this Total-Surveilance thing happen, but welcome to the Computer Age! It’s not nearly as difficult an undertaking as you make it seem. This sort of thing has been going on for a very long time, it’s just much more sophisticated now.

  6. Beginning with Western Union, then AT&T the OSI began receiving copies of all telegrams and overseas toll calls from the patriotic civic minded companies. As traffic expanded so did the appropriate agencies size, scope and budget. Do not laugh it off. Accept it as fact, or check it out and act accordingly. All traffic is recorded first for billing purposes, then for content and filtered. Who do you think paid for voice-to-text processing? Who besides Google pays for search engine research? Oh, ye naive sheeple. Your disbelief makes it all so easy.

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