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(Mother Jones)   Metadata schmetadata. The NSA is actually recording every call made every day   (motherjones.com) divider line 382
    More: Followup, NSA, NSA Revelations, international call  
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4811 clicks; posted to Politics » on 02 Jul 2013 at 7:10 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-07-02 05:19:18 PM  
Last I recall, you have no expectation of privacy on a cellphone. I might be wrong, but I recall this being a thing.
 
2013-07-02 05:25:36 PM  
Horseshiat.

Or at a minimum, there's a lot of qualifiers missing there.

Cell phone calls produce an amount of data daily that is surely exponentially greater than the production rate of the various storage media. There are 315,000,000 people in the US alone, probably 95% of whom make at least one and potentially dozens of phone calls per day. 99.99% of those calls are utterly useless to anyone - hairdressers ordering pizza, teenage girls talking about OMG how hunky Brett from the lacrosse team is, etc. The costs of storing all of that data would be astronomical, even IF the physical capacity existed.

And that doesn't even touch on a lot of other problems, like throwaway prepaid phones, people with 35 different email addresses all registered under BS data via proxies, etc. Yes, they can crack it, but that's time consuming, and for what? To figure out that some guy in West Memphis better deliver that pound of pot like he said he would, or he is gonna get his ass kicked?

This smacks of hysteria and/or a poor description.

Either:

1. They are storing everything for a very finite period of time. Like, a day, or a couple of weeks, tops
2. They are profiling and storing everything for a very few and just doing metadata for everyone else
3. They're saving time and effort and just doing the metadata for most things.

I'll believe they have the capacity to listen in on anyone in real time, and that they can record whomever they want, whenever they want. They've probably had that ability for 10 years. But they're not recording everything live all the time and storing it forever. They simply don't have the ability yet.

Unless 4. they have discovered some absurd new technology, like an unreal compression algorithm, or quantum data storage, or some such.

But I'll believe it's coming.
 
2013-07-02 05:28:27 PM  
BS:

www.motherjones.com

If this is the slide they're using to justify a claim that the NSA is recording every email or chat, then they are full of it.

Real-time knowledge of when someone logs in and when someone sent a message (i.e. email events) is not the same as knowing the content of the message. Seriously, I don't see how any reasonable person can read that slide and think "OMG, they're recording all of my emails and chat messages."
 
2013-07-02 05:36:53 PM  
Yes, but it's just for quality assurance.
 
2013-07-02 05:37:44 PM  

whistleridge: Horseshiat.


RexTalionis: BS:



Shortly after the F-117 (stealth fighter) was unveiled, I read an interview (Aviation Leek i believe) with a VP of Northrup Grumman who said what is classified is 50 years ahead of what is public. If you think the NSA/CIA is using off the shelf gear or anything you can imagine, well you just shouldn't.
 
2013-07-02 05:44:30 PM  

PreMortem: whistleridge: Horseshiat.

RexTalionis: BS:


Shortly after the F-117 (stealth fighter) was unveiled, I read an interview (Aviation Leek i believe) with a VP of Northrup Grumman who said what is classified is 50 years ahead of what is public. If you think the NSA/CIA is using off the shelf gear or anything you can imagine, well you just shouldn't.


Here's a question - what does that have to do with the fact that a journalist is basing an allegation of the NSA recording all emails and chats with a slide that doesn't actually back up this allegation?
 
2013-07-02 05:50:24 PM  
This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.
 
2013-07-02 05:53:33 PM  
www.morethings.com

PRANK CALLER! PRANK CALLER!
 
2013-07-02 05:54:07 PM  

unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.


You sure?

Consider:

* De-duplication
* Things the average American talks about.
 
2013-07-02 06:02:12 PM  
This is actually not all that surprising, if you consider what happened to me last week.  I was out at the park trying to call my friend Jim on a pay phone to score some weed, and this dude came up and started banging on the phone booth like he wanted to use it.  I was like, dude, I'm trying to score some weed, but he just kept banging and screeching at me.  Just let it go, man, I said, but then people were screaming and running because I think he was actually a howler monkey or something and then animal control showed up and I never got my weed because I got arrested for being naked in public, also they apparently haven't had pay phones there for a couple years now so I don't know what all that was about.

So yeah, I can totally see this happening.
 
2013-07-02 06:08:34 PM  
More taking small bits of information, filling in the blanks ourselves, and hand-wringing. Yay.
 
2013-07-02 06:11:30 PM  

I_Am_Weasel: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

You sure?

Consider:

* De-duplication
* Things the average American talks about.


I consider: unscrambling walsh encoding was enough of a pain before the multi-channel stuff started to come into play, and now decoding a six-tower multi channel multi encoded call using hardware other than the chip it was sent from, even if you're popping it at the BTS, is going to be really processor intensive. They can do it, but with today's tech it's still not easy. Scale that over the number of calls made every day, and you're getting into "highly improbable or impossible" territory. Add on top of that the amount of storage you'd need to hold every voice call made for a single day and multiply it by even just a week you've gone into crazybucket territory.
 
2013-07-02 06:27:37 PM  

unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.



That is not true. The NSA Salt Lake facility has 5 ZB (zettabytes) of storage. Let's put that number in to perspective for everyone. The entirety of the internet is 500 EB (exabytes), which is .5 ZB. The entirety of all global data transmission is 2.7 ZB. They can record everything sent twice over.

Keep thinking that it is a technological impossibility and therefore the NSA can't or won't do it.
 
2013-07-02 06:29:54 PM  

cannotsuggestaname: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.


That is not true. The NSA Salt Lake facility has 5 ZB (zettabytes) of storage. Let's put that number in to perspective for everyone. The entirety of the internet is 500 EB (exabytes), which is .5 ZB. The entirety of all global data transmission is 2.7 ZB. They can record everything sent twice over.

Keep thinking that it is a technological impossibility and therefore the NSA can't or won't do it.


It's not just storage space, dude. It's ALSO the combined amount of power to intercept, decode, record, and then transmit that all to a datacenter. It's a HUGE undertaking.

On top of that, unlikely also specifically said "I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could ".
 
2013-07-02 06:30:59 PM  

unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.


Like you know what technology exists.
 
2013-07-02 06:36:40 PM  
There is a reason they have 5 ZB in SLC and another 2.5 in San Antonio. They didn't just put that crazy amount of storage capability out there because ZOMG SO COOL!

They did it because of intercepts.
 
2013-07-02 06:38:34 PM  

Triumph: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

Like you know what technology exists.


I actually have a pretty good grasp of it. There's some stuff I only know in the abstract, but overall, yes I do.
 
2013-07-02 06:43:16 PM  

unlikely: Triumph: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

Like you know what technology exists.

I actually have a pretty good grasp of it. There's some stuff I only know in the abstract, but overall, yes I do.


Ok, resident of Hiroshima - carry on.
 
2013-07-02 06:43:18 PM  

cannotsuggestaname: There is a reason they have 5 ZB in SLC and another 2.5 in San Antonio. They didn't just put that crazy amount of storage capability out there because ZOMG SO COOL!

They did it because of intercepts

porn.
 
2013-07-02 07:01:10 PM  

cannotsuggestaname: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.


That is not true. The NSA Salt Lake facility has 5 ZB (zettabytes) of storage. Let's put that number in to perspective for everyone. The entirety of the internet is 500 EB (exabytes), which is .5 ZB. The entirety of all global data transmission is 2.7 ZB. They can record everything sent twice over.

Keep thinking that it is a technological impossibility and therefore the NSA can't or won't do it.


5ZB is 10,013,618,521 years of phone calls (assuming a 16kbps GSM call).
 
2013-07-02 07:14:39 PM  
I wonder if it would be possible to encrypt your data transmission in such a way that it does something malicious to whatever it's stored on -- or, at the very least, defeats storage of itself.
 
2013-07-02 07:16:48 PM  

unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.


http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

As impossible as a massive datacenter tapping into all the lines and having multiple Zetabytes of storage capacity? Whaddya suppose they're storing there, cookbook recipes?
 
2013-07-02 07:17:16 PM  

PreMortem: whistleridge: Horseshiat.

RexTalionis: BS:


Shortly after the F-117 (stealth fighter) was unveiled, I read an interview (Aviation Leek i believe) with a VP of Northrup Grumman who said what is classified is 50 years ahead of what is public. If you think the NSA/CIA is using off the shelf gear or anything you can imagine, well you just shouldn't.


On one off spying options maybe but i can say from personal experience the TLAs are a year to eighteen months behind security state of play at any given time.

Don't believe the hype. But don't think they can't fake their way to technological ends with brute force money.
 
2013-07-02 07:18:12 PM  
Has this ever ended well for a government when they behave like this? Or its citizens?

This sucks.
 
2013-07-02 07:19:17 PM  

James F. Campbell: I wonder if it would be possible to encrypt your data transmission in such a way that it does something malicious to whatever it's stored on -- or, at the very least, defeats storage of itself.


Store all my teamspeak encrypted packets, go for it. Or have the NSA deliver a national security letter to the German company that makes it, see how ordering them to help you spy on everyone goes over.

If nothing else, this NSA fiasco should encourage ordinary people to do a better job of securing their data both in transit and at either end.
 
2013-07-02 07:19:22 PM  

firefly212: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

As impossible as a massive datacenter tapping into all the lines and having multiple Zetabytes of storage capacity? Whaddya suppose they're storing there, cookbook recipes?


Likely they're storing the output from ARGUS drones.

I can only assume it's because people aren't intimately familiar with tech, but it's silly how people keep bringing up the storage capacity of the datacenter. It's irrelevant. Amazon has more than enough CAPACITY to store every call made, but the issue is slightly more complicated than raw capacity.
 
2013-07-02 07:20:52 PM  

BafflerMeal: PreMortem: whistleridge: Horseshiat.

RexTalionis: BS:


Shortly after the F-117 (stealth fighter) was unveiled, I read an interview (Aviation Leek i believe) with a VP of Northrup Grumman who said what is classified is 50 years ahead of what is public. If you think the NSA/CIA is using off the shelf gear or anything you can imagine, well you just shouldn't.

On one off spying options maybe but i can say from personal experience the TLAs are a year to eighteen months behind security state of play at any given time.

Don't believe the hype. But don't think they can't fake their way to technological ends with brute force money.


It's not that I don't think they have the capacity to collect all the data alleged... it's that I know they aren't competent enough to analyze it.
 
2013-07-02 07:26:55 PM  

RexTalionis: Seriously, I don't see how any reasonable person can read that slide and think "OMG, they're recording all of my emails and chat messages."


Well, you could read the rest of the slide you posted and notice items B and E on the list are IMs and email, respectively.
 
2013-07-02 07:28:18 PM  

LasersHurt: firefly212: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

As impossible as a massive datacenter tapping into all the lines and having multiple Zetabytes of storage capacity? Whaddya suppose they're storing there, cookbook recipes?

Likely they're storing the output from ARGUS drones.

I can only assume it's because people aren't intimately familiar with tech, but it's silly how people keep bringing up the storage capacity of the datacenter. It's irrelevant. Amazon has more than enough CAPACITY to store every call made, but the issue is slightly more complicated than raw capacity.


The data center is big enough that pretty much, no matter what you say they're recording, it's possible. I don't think voice data would take up that much space, given decent compression. Even if you get into the email/sms side of things, weeding out duplicates and spam is easy enough, and storing whats left wouldn't be that big of a feat.

The problem (in my mind) is not one of storage, but of organizing all of it in such a manner that it is usable/mineable in a semi-efficient manner. I have strong doubts about the ability to filter such unfocused and erratic information flows into something useful, actionable, and productive. Thus far, the keywords released have indicated that they could have their data mining operation alert someone if there was a major event happening, but none of it is indicative of an ability to foresee events prior to occurrence.
 
2013-07-02 07:28:27 PM  

firefly212: It's not that I don't think they have the capacity to collect all the data alleged... it's that I know they aren't competent enough to analyze it.


Yup. Collecting every phone call ever made would render the data useless. You'd be searching for a needle in a universe.
 
2013-07-02 07:28:42 PM  
Bullsh*t!
There is no way that lazy government workers could come up with technology, before the holy Private Sector!
That's what they'd need to store the exabytes for all the phone calls, texts, e-mails, and associated metadata.
 
2013-07-02 07:31:05 PM  
But paper is obsolete and the post office must be shut down to save money, right?

No government could store that many photocopies of employ that many people to scan letters. When you buy a stamp, you are paying a price for privacy and excellent security for your documents.
 
2013-07-02 07:32:21 PM  
good thing the only word I ever say on the phone is "fart".

/I use inflection and tone to get my meaning across
//it's an art form, really
 
2013-07-02 07:34:03 PM  
Why does everyone think all of a sudden that the US government is so efficient, creative and capable? Every time someone brings up technical limitations, a bunch of people swoop in and start talking about how much more advanced the NSA is than all the tech companies put together!

Surely it's more reasonable to expect that the government that can't get the VA records computerised and talking to each other isn't 10 years ahead of Amazon in data warehousing and processing.

They might have built a giant data centre, it might have a lot of storage, but I'm pretty confident that the software and hardware in it is not more advance than that running Facebook or Google or the phone company itself.

So whilst that might be super secret squirrel and seem super advanced and magical for some of us, when someone who does know the limitations of those systems outlines some of them, it's silly to tell them they're wrong because surely the government tech is 50 years ahead of all the private industry that's doing R&D for profit.

If that is actually true, then isn't that a victory for state run communism over capitalism?
 
2013-07-02 07:34:54 PM  
Free tin hats. Get your free tin hats, right here!
 
2013-07-02 07:35:15 PM  

Mangoose: Last I recall, you have no expectation of privacy on a cellphone. I might be wrong, but I recall this being a thing.


Katz v US
 
2013-07-02 07:35:21 PM  
Can any of you come up with a guess as to how much data storage a billion phone calls would require?

All I can think of is my mp3 files - a 3 min song is about 4MB

assume an average call also 3 min?

As pointed out above, I realize their compression tech will be slightly better than mp3

What is the comparison? - the best known compression is ? times better than mp3?
 
2013-07-02 07:36:04 PM  

firefly212: LasersHurt: firefly212: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

As impossible as a massive datacenter tapping into all the lines and having multiple Zetabytes of storage capacity? Whaddya suppose they're storing there, cookbook recipes?

Likely they're storing the output from ARGUS drones.

I can only assume it's because people aren't intimately familiar with tech, but it's silly how people keep bringing up the storage capacity of the datacenter. It's irrelevant. Amazon has more than enough CAPACITY to store every call made, but the issue is slightly more complicated than raw capacity.

The data center is big enough that pretty much, no matter what you say they're recording, it's possible. I don't think voice data would take up that much space, given decent compression. Even if you get into the email/sms side of things, weeding out duplicates and spam is easy enough, and storing whats left wouldn't be that big of a feat.

The problem (in my mind) is not one of storage, but of organizing all of it in such a manner that it is usable/mineable in a semi-efficient manner. I have strong doubts about the ability to filter such unfocused and erratic information flows into something useful, actionable, and productive. Thus far, the keywords released have indicated that they could have their data mining operation alert someone if there was a major event happening, but none of it is indicative of an ability to foresee events prior to occurrence.


There is NO WAY they are collecting every call. That's asinine. Even the broadest targeting would reduce the workload by huge amounts while giving roughly the same results. There is no data analysis metric I can think of that would ever require or even desire 100% of the calls. You're going out of your way to collect what you KNOW to be noise.

What people THINK they are gonna do is sort of... what the tech might allow in 5 years, kind of? There's a lot of work to do in liguistics and machine learning to begin handling that amount of data, as you said.

I read somewhere (and it may be wrong) that something on the order of 90% of raw data produced on the internet was made in the last 2-3 years. Huge datacenters under construction may seem insane now, but "big data" has honest applications, even for spy agencies. Maybe. That last sentence feels weird.
 
2013-07-02 07:37:39 PM  
If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear.
 
2013-07-02 07:38:53 PM  
They probably can't store actual phone calls because the data is too great. However, they could process them with speech to text programs - kinda like a teletype system that would store the phone call in plain text format. Assuming they have good deciphering algorithms they have the gist of the call on file without having to actually save audio.
 
2013-07-02 07:39:41 PM  

Shotgun Justice: They probably can't store actual phone calls because the data is too great. However, they could process them with speech to text programs - kinda like a teletype system that would store the phone call in plain text format. Assuming they have good deciphering algorithms they have the gist of the call on file without having to actually save audio.


This is ridiculous, and presumes that there isn't enough storage (this is very wrong) but there is more than enough computing power to accurately transcribe every call (this is also wrong).
 
2013-07-02 07:40:49 PM  
Well, let's even give them 100% benefit of the doubt--they really ARE recording and storing every single cell phone conversation in "real time". A moment's thought would prove they can't possibly do anything with it in "real time"--there aren't enough people in the world.

To listen to a recorded conversation in real time takes as long as it did in actual time; so there's no advantage to recording and storing except for evidentiary purposes. To record and listen to a billion conversations after the fact would require half a billion people, or at least half a billion transactions; meanwhile, another billion calls have gone into storage that need reviewing.

Maybe they CAN do all this horrific real-time monitoring; but its neither practical nor necessary to actually do it.
 
2013-07-02 07:41:06 PM  
intercept call.
translate to text file.
keep forever.
 
2013-07-02 07:41:49 PM  

Mangoose: Last I recall, you have no expectation of privacy on a cellphone. I might be wrong, but I recall this being a thing.


I bet you like Hugo Boss's earlier work, too. Stop defending a police state, this is pretty serious shiat. Just about every phone conversation you've had in the past decade, and you're okay with that being collected with no warrant or due process whatsoever?

I don't give a shiat if the 80's bricks would be read from any radio scanner, that's not the case anymore. People expect their phone calls to be private, and for very good reason. You need to get a warrant to tap a landline, a warrant should damn well be required for a cell phone.
 
2013-07-02 07:42:55 PM  

unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

 
2013-07-02 07:43:31 PM  

unlikely: I consider: unscrambling walsh encoding was enough of a pain before the multi-channel stuff started to come into play, and now decoding a six-tower multi channel multi encoded call using hardware other than the chip it was sent from, even if you're popping it at the BTS, is going to be really processor intensive.


The phone service providers are already scrambling/descrambling all of this trafficin order to provide the service; I thought that the government had access to that.
 
2013-07-02 07:43:38 PM  

LasersHurt: Shotgun Justice: They probably can't store actual phone calls because the data is too great. However, they could process them with speech to text programs - kinda like a teletype system that would store the phone call in plain text format. Assuming they have good deciphering algorithms they have the gist of the call on file without having to actually save audio.

This is ridiculous, and presumes that there isn't enough storage (this is very wrong) but there is more than enough computing power to accurately transcribe every call (this is also wrong).


Try recording raw audio data and see what type of file size you get.  To compress it down would require much more processing power.  Not to mention organizing the data and drawing out relevant keywords.
 
2013-07-02 07:43:44 PM  

LasersHurt: firefly212: LasersHurt: firefly212: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

As impossible as a massive datacenter tapping into all the lines and having multiple Zetabytes of storage capacity? Whaddya suppose they're storing there, cookbook recipes?

Likely they're storing the output from ARGUS drones.

I can only assume it's because people aren't intimately familiar with tech, but it's silly how people keep bringing up the storage capacity of the datacenter. It's irrelevant. Amazon has more than enough CAPACITY to store every call made, but the issue is slightly more complicated than raw capacity.

The data center is big enough that pretty much, no matter what you say they're recording, it's possible. I don't think voice data would take up that much space, given decent compression. Even if you get into the email/sms side of things, weeding out duplicates and spam is easy enough, and storing whats left wouldn't be that big of a feat.

The problem (in my mind) is not one of storage, but of organizing all of it in such a manner that it is usable/mineable in a semi-efficient manner. I have strong doubts about the ability to filter such unfocused and erratic information flows into something useful, actionable, and productive. Thus far, the keywords released have indicated that they could have their data mining operation alert someone if there was a major event happening, but none of it is indicative of an ability to foresee events prior to occurrence.

There is NO WAY they are collecting every call. That's asinine. Even the broadest targeting would reduce the workload by huge amounts while giving roughly the same results. There is no data analysis metric I can think of that would ever require or even desire 100% of the calls. You're going out of your way to collect what you KNOW to be noise.

What people THINK they are gonn ...


No way... yes way, there's definitely a *way* to do it. Do I think they are dumb enough to do it that way? I've yet to form an opinion on that. As iterated before, I understand the signal:noise ratio problem, and that doing it that way would be absolutely stupid. That said, I have very little faith that people in the intelligence community see the world through the probabilistic and mathematic lens I do... I think many in the intelligence services are probably "collect everything, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" mentalities. To be honest, the scope of what we *know* they are collecting strikes me as extraordinarily inefficient, so when they're accused of doing something else extraordinarily stupid, it seems more believable.
 
2013-07-02 07:44:26 PM  

unlikely: I_Am_Weasel: unlikely: This is simply technically impossible.

I'm not saying they wouldn't if they could, but the technology does not exist.

You sure?

Consider:

* De-duplication
* Things the average American talks about.

I consider: unscrambling walsh encoding was enough of a pain before the multi-channel stuff started to come into play, and now decoding a six-tower multi channel multi encoded call using hardware other than the chip it was sent from, even if you're popping it at the BTS, is going to be really processor intensive. They can do it, but with today's tech it's still not easy. Scale that over the number of calls made every day, and you're getting into "highly improbable or impossible" territory. Add on top of that the amount of storage you'd need to hold every voice call made for a single day and multiply it by even just a week you've gone into crazybucket territory.


ok so you know just enough to make you ignorant.  They don't have to intercept it at the tower.  They already have the access to the main switches thanks to previous laws passed CALEA 1996 or something or other...basically like the internet they can drill down to find where the greatest concentration of calls are passing...for both domestic-> foreign and domestic -> domestic.  There are far fewer hubs that handle domestic -> foreign traffic than there are domestic -> domestic.  Nonetheless they can and have mapped the communications network so that they are able to intercept what they want when they want...and with the ever increasing data storage capacities they can in real time likely store all voice calls in the USA quite easily and leave the decoding for when they actually want to listen.

It would be stored in its compressed native format until they wanted to look at it. Look at it this way soon magnetic hard drives storage capacity will at least triple thanks to flipping the magnetic material into vertical alignment instead of horizontal.  Its like having a book case for your data instead of throwing your crap on the floor and needing lots of floors to hold them.  voice data isn't all that big.  Video? yeah...audio? not so much especially at the limited bit-rate that voice calls use.
 
2013-07-02 07:44:29 PM  

Shotgun Justice: They probably can't store actual phone calls because the data is too great. However, they could process them with speech to text programs - kinda like a teletype system that would store the phone call in plain text format. Assuming they have good deciphering algorithms they have the gist of the call on file without having to actually save audio.


And I bet they're including the text file they generate when they talk about "metadata".

I'm generally a fan of Obama. But if this is even close to true, he should be impeached. This is such a radical overreach that an example needs to be set.
 
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