Glenn Greenwald spoke at the conference tonight via Skype, and he gave a quick preview of some upcoming stories he’s working on at The Guardian concerning the National Security Agency.
He didn’t go into detail and it was actually a little ambiguous, but the gist of what’s coming is that the NSA has the technical capability to monitor and store up to one billion cell phone calls per day, globally. We’re talking about call content here — spoken words — in addition to metadata like the cell numbers of participants, date and time, and possibly location from GPS.
It wasn’t clear to me based on how quickly he teased the revelation that the NSA actually is doing this right now. It may have that ability and is using it sparingly, or is using it all the time.
It’s also not yet clear under what laws this program is justified by, who started it, how long it has been running, and what kind of court oversight exists to constrain it if there is any at all. It’s not known if members of Congress are even aware of it. Presumably much of that will come with the story.
The prime point is that the NSA has the capability to listen to and store more than a quarter trillion cell phone calls per year even though such systems are supposed to be protected from eavesdropping, and I personally think it’s very unlikely that they’d have it and not be using it.
This Edward Snowden business is not close to being over.
Rush transcript as follows:
Another document that I probably shouldn’t, since it’s not published but I’m going to anyway, share with you.
And this one’s coming soon, but you’re getting a little preview. It talks about how a brand new technology enables the National Security Agency to redirect into its own repositories one billion cell phone calls every single day. One billion cell phone calls every single day.
What we are really talking about here is a globalized system that prevents any form of electronic communication from taking place without its being stored and monitored by the National Security Agency. It doesn’t mean they’re listening to every call, it means they’re storing every call and have the capability to listen to them at any time, and it does mean that they’re collecting millions upon millions upon millions of our phone and email records.
It is a globalized system designed to destroy all privacy. And what’s incredibly menacing about it is that it is all taking place in the dark with no accountability and virtually no safeguards. The purpose of our story and the purpose of Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing is not singularly or unilaterally to destroy those systems.
The purpose is to say, “If you the United States government, and the governments around the world want to create a globalized surveillance system in which we no longer have any privacy in any of our individual lives or on the Internet, you at least ought to have us know about it, have you do it in the sunlight so that we can decide democratically whether that’s the kind of system and the kind of world in which we want to live.”