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Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case

Glenn Greenwald
Saturday 4 May 2013


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.

On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It's not a voice mail. It's just a conversation. There's no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

CLEMENTE: "No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It's not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: "So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: "No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not."

"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".

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Not only that, but the

Not only that, but the government has stopped prosecuting companies that do the same. Reading your emails, your cookies, your phone calls, GPS location, etc. Hell, in China it has always been 100% legal; it is happening in the US now to.

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

I already knew this...

...was happening, but it's really creepy when you read the reality of it.

No mention of Carnivore?

Nobody in any of the comments I've seen anywhere mention Eschelon or Carnivore or that ASB or ASV 1000 or whatever they changed the name to.

That's really odd, as this is one place I figured Everyone knew about those systems, and I figured Someone in a comment online somewhere would've mentioned them but I'm seeing nothing...

Did those systems get debunked or something and I missed it? I've figured since about 40 years ago they've been recording everything...

I mentioned Echelon briefly in a comment further down.

I'd actually forgotten about Carnivore. Glad you mentioned it here.

Whew I'm blind

Thank you for mentioning it!!! And for sharing the link.

I do believe they have the ability to access all conversations

I do think it is likely that the government does record every phone call, cell phone call, text message, and email, and possibly even have microphones installed in televisions and cable boxes...

And all of this information is being recorded and stored in a giant database.

Is THERE SOMEONE LISTENING TO YOUR CONVERSATIONS? Probably not. Not until you become interesting.

So they store your conversations, and then when the government becomes interested in you, they target you, THEN THEY PULL UP YOUR CONVERSATIONS. At this point they can filter through your conversations and find dirt on you.

This is another reason I don't like drones. They can do the same shit with crazy cameras and record our every movement to be recalled later.

Makes me sick to think of living in such a 1984 world.

How do you spell RELIEF?

G.I.G.O. (Garbage In, Garbage Out)


GIGO refers to the concept

GIGO refers to the concept that entering bad data gives bad results... "Garbage In, Garbage Out". In other words, Facebook is only as good as the information you feed it.

Take the time and think

who gains from all the info?
who gains from the war's
who gains from war on drugs.
who gains from search and seizure.

Check this out Glen is a guy with a high I.Q. who like Ron Paul agenda seems to be about a fair government!

Most people let there rights go because they think if there aren't doing anything wrong that they don't have to worry.

One of my best friends had a really hot wife who worked as a ER nurse so she had a lot of contact with the police.
They just didn't have a relationship that work out to stay married.
So as best of friends they split up.

Guess what?
My buddy got all kinds of intimidation police coming by his house because they just couldn't believe that he was as nice as her.
and I guess they thought if the scared him, maybe they would have a shot with the playmate!

After two week of police harassment, she had to tell every cop coming into ER that her soon to be ex was a nice guy. ONE MORE TIME NICE GUY.

A good prosecutor get about a 100% conviction ratio!
So your going to trust the government who as a rule will not hire a officer if he has over a 110 IQ!
the office will build a case against you if he has total access to everything you said he could take it out of context and at the least you will be broke trying to defend yourself.

And on top of that watch this video.

Just want what seems to be missing, Truth and Justice for ALL
What is fraud except creating “value” from nothing and passing it off as something?

I think he is full of shit.

And he only wants you all to believe it to stifle dissent. You know, fear the big, bad, know everything, government, after all they listen to everything you say.
It was on CNN, so it must be fact, right?

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within" W. Durant

1978, big ears, NSA drama.

Doesn't anyone recall ?
I was a senior in HS when it broke, and I've always just assumed ever since that EVERY word I ever spoke into a phone, every keystroke I every computed online was tracked and recorded and stored away somewhere.
I even, from time to time feed those Aholes some disinformation, just to keep them guessing...and someday I'm going to pull my plug on them by just going silent, maybe soon.

God Bless

Drew, by the very grace of GOD through the blood of Christ Jesus.
"there shall come after us men whom shall garner great wealth using our system, and having done so shall seek to slam the door of prosperity behind them." George Washington

While the NSA was certainly

While the NSA was certainly spying on international communications back in 1978 it was not at that time storing everything said in domestic phone conversations or everything transferred over what was then called the ARPANET. The technical capability didn't exist back then. I remember an IBM ad around that time for a one terabyte storage system they had developed. It filled a large room, and had multiple levels of storage (drums, disks, and magnetic strips). Today you can buy a cheap two terabyte disk drive that fits in your hand. (I'm sure the NSA has more advanced stuff.) So now the NSA can store that flood of data.

My hope is that they accumulate so much data that they

lose the ability to manage it so it becomes worthless to them except well after the fact that the information might be usable.

I accumulate a mailing list composed of the email addresses from all the junk email I receive. To assist in overwhelming those who want to monitor my email activity, I occasionally use PGP to encrypt a copy of the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or some similar large document, and email it to those addresses on that list. Let them read all they want.

"Bend over and grab your ankles" should be etched in stone at the entrance to every government building and every government office.

I personally believe (without

I personally believe (without actual "smoking gun" proof, of course) that nearly all communications are monitored, but they are not all recorded. I think key written or spoken phrases that pass through electronic gateways or because of interpersonal connections based on location, social networks or affiliations are enough to trigger automated systems to target certain individuals for recording and increased scrutiny.

The amount of information to be stored and identified would be mind-bogglingly vast if everything was actually recorded. This is why I think it might be easier to monitor (using artificial intelligence programs, such as IBM's Watson) without everything being recorded.

They won't even look at the

They won't even look at the information until they target someone. At that time, they will have a voice recognition program pull out every conversation their target has had over the last 20+ years, then they will have a computer filter pick out the key words that they deem important. Computers may become so advanced that they can pull out the one sentence that incriminates someone. Even now they can narrow it down to just a few days of listening while you are in a holding cell. There are so many laws that most everyone could be charged with a felony every week. This will allow them to lock away or kill anyone they want under color of the law. They don't look at the data and find a crime and then go after the targeted person. They find a targeted person, search the data, make up a crime/excuse, then eliminate the target.

Reasonably reliable voice

Reasonably reliable voice recognition software has only come around in the last 5-10 years. There may be more advanced software developed that we don't yet know of, but I find that unlikely. Software advances are fairly porous and travel quickly, so if breakthrough work in one area had occurred, other coders would've known about it.

My point is that they are

My point is that they are recording and holding all information now, and 20 years from now they will have the ability to review and pick out an individual voice, probably much sooner. They realize this and are building the database. It would be like someone in the 80's collecting hair samples in the hopes of DNA testing in the future.

Then where are the massive

Then where are the massive server farms? Wouldn't constant sweeps of all Internet-connected computers and voice traffic require enormous amounts of power that would be detectable or traceable? Don't you think a group like A*n*o*n*y*m*o*u*s or Wikileaks would've discovered such a thing by now?

Like I said before, I happen to think most, if not all publicly accessible data may be scanned but not stored. Archiving all that data would be a near impossibility AFAIK.

You believe the government

You believe the government doesn't have the computing space? Really? That is not a problem for them. It has been discovered, I thought it was generally accepted knowledge by now. Do you read much? They don't have to transfer all of it to government owned servers, most private servers store emails, etc., and they regularly search these. But there's massive computer space at the NSA, Langley Virginia likely holds a lot. Some is stored on databases of other countries and private companies, but they are expanding as these older servers are filling up quick.




And these are just the ones we know about, I am sure there are many that are unknown.

Alright, but the Wired

Alright, but the Wired article said that NSA data center wouldn't even be up and running until Setember. The other sources I won't even waste my time reading.

Additionally, these massive projects are all about expanding budgets and the power if the people overseeing these installations. These things don't happen without the usual human elements mixed into them, such as fear, greed, gamesmanship, etc. More data isn't necessarily "better" data.

Here's another source, this time in India. Note that they will be "monitoring", not "recording"...

"Recording" is impractical. Monitoring is relatively simpler.



They will soon be recording public conversations! We don't have to debate this, just tell a friend of your to play along and start planning a major terrorist attack on the phone, or assassinating someone important and if nobody shows up at your house within 6 weeks of doing this, I will declare you correct!

In this digital age

In this digital age, of course they are collecting, compiling, and storing all the information they can get their hands on.
You are linked to everyone you've ever called, and more than that, all your "searches" have been recorded too. Recall how a criminal is "caught" and "convicted" because of their e-mails, phone calls, etc.
I've been telling my family this for at least the last 15 years, and they mostly seem to think it's alright with them, as long as they're not the "criminal". Look at how freely people give information to FACEBOOK and other social media venues.
What they don't know, WE ARE ALL SUSPECTS since 9-11, and that's the way the Government likes it, and even want more power to do what they want...this is why there's a big assault on the amendments to the constitution. One slice of the pie at a time, until it's all gone and people not even notice how things have changed.
Hey, I thought "WE" were the ones who's suppose to be watching the Government, NOT the other way around...Hey, What's going on here?
When it's alright for people to "BOO" the Golden Rule, I know we are in some serious deep doo-doo, and its just a matter of time before something happens to grab all our LIBERTIES.

FBI can hear you even with

FBI can hear you even with your cell phone off.


thats why the batteries dont come out on many these days!

That and the battery usually goes first and most people will just buy a new phone!

I also thought it was creepy when a lot of laptops started coming out with fingerprint scans in lieu of passwords. You scan one finger and the software prompts you: "come on! Do the other fingers too! All of them in order. What if you lose a hand."

Ultimately I didn't object to the print from one finger because that data is already available to the parties interested in that info.

No surprise here. I have assumed this to be the case for

the last 5-7 years or so (since the admission of the "red rooms" in telecom centers)... or longer? Can't recall. Haven't most of us?

As for the doubters: why would anyone be so naive as to deny this rather obvious situation? (Normalcy bias gets 'em every time!)

I don't mean to be condescending, nor am I Mr. Smarty-pants or anything. But seriously...

How many times has the FBI, etc. denied some practice--and even vehemently--only to turn around some years later and admit that, yes, they had been enacting that practice all along?

Man, until people wake up and recognize our "government" as the enemy which it truly is by and large, we'll get nowhere.

No paranoia here; just recognition of reality.

(BTW, since I shouldn't assume everyone has heard this: if you want to have an earnest "EFF the government" conversation [or one about boom sticks, "herbal remedies", etc.] with someone, it might be wise to do this in person, and take the batteries out of your phones. And this is old news....)

What would the Founders do?

They admitted this on 9-11-01.

My husband, son and I all remember it, we were watching the news that evening and some government spokesman, I think from the FCC, admitted they captured every conversation, saying all they had to do was mine the data. We have tried to find the clip since then, have been unable.

This is the article that got my posting privileges revoked:

People should

read about the HUGE spy center the NSA is building in Utah:


I think it's largely to target the biggest, most information rich communication system there is: the Internet.

The good news is that if you know what you're doing you can be anonymous and communicate very privately on the Internet. This is possible using cryptography, which is based on math, (what Bitcoin uses for example) and obfuscation technologies like Tor that make it basically impossible to connect an IP address with an actual person/location, which is how Silk Road is able to operate.

No matter how big a government gets they can't beat math. But I'll be glad once the dollar crashes and we de-fund all this illegal overgrown bureaucracy.