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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, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.
A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine -- one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.
The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for "retrospective retrieval," and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.
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.
The call buffer opens a door "into the past," the summary says, enabling users to "retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call." Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or "cuts," for processing and long-term storage.
At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.
No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation's telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA's practice of "bulk collection" abroad.
The reason we never offered anonymous identities or communication, was a basic understanding of iterated prisoners' dilemma. Conversations, communities, relationships and strong emotional bonds are formed through a social form of iterated prisoners' dilemma.
When a participant in iterative prisoners' dilemma has no identity or feels free from the responsibility of their actions in social interactions communities quickly degenerate into a race to the bottom. This is when trolls, abusers and the worst part of our humanity starts to become a strategic advantage in seeing your actions get more attention by continuing to push the envelope of acceptable behavior. [...]
Neither of these companies have done the bare minimum to develop a security model that backs up their claims of anonymity and they both should be ashamed. It is the pinacle of irresponsibility to ignore basic security, cryptography, litigation and network design threat modelling but promote yourself as anonymous. [...]
What a waste. If you're an engineer at Whisper with any skills I suggest you recheck you goals & priorities and then start circulating your CV. There are so many worthy startups that are doing meaningful things. So many worthy ideas that need engineering, design or attention. I know Whisper is funded. I know they probably have aspirations of a massive exit. But if you are an engineer at Whisper try never reading anything but InTouch magazine & TMZ for your entire tenure at the company and then decide if that's how your skills are best utilized.
Currently, BART offers a sad excuse for WiFi through a contract with WiFi Rail. Forty-four of BART's 669 train cars are equipped with weak, unreliable service. WiFi Rail chargers commuters for wifi and requires some users to watch advertisements.
"The fact is, we are dealing with a vendor that has had trouble coming up with the capital needed to fulfill the contract," Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager for operations, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
In a typical logical twist, the minds behind BART's current disastrous WiFi were hired to provide the brand new service. Thanks to a nearly $2.5 million contract, Oakland-based WiFi Rail will soon become the largest high bandwidth mobile Internet LAN in the U.S., according to the WiFi Rail web site.
The project will be funded in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.