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"All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not" -- former FBI agent

Are the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal agencies secretly working with telecommunication firms to record your every call for later use, if necessary?  That's the alarming possibility that's being raised by supposed leaks from government officials claiming that the investigation of last month's Boston bombing has refocused on phone calls the suspects placed to friends and family prior to the attack.

I. All Digital Communications Belong to Us

Concern intensified when on a segment of CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett, former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente suggested that the FBI has access to every U.S. citizen's phone conversations past and present.  

The exchange went as follows:

Erin 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?

Tim 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.

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

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

In other words, according to this former FBI agent and well respected expert, every single conversation made by an American via wired or wireless phone signals is being recorded, in most cases without a warrant.  

Further, some are extrapolating his phrasing "no digital communication is secure" -- to suggest that the government and its corporate partners are also intercepting all other forms of communication, such as instant messages, emails, and private forum posts.  If accurate, again this interception would be in most cases without warrant.

II. Veterans Charged, Harassed by FBI for Blowing the Whistle

The program in question may trace back to the Pentagon and Nation Security Agencies' "Total Information Awareness" program (TIA), which launched in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.  Officially that project -- whose goal was ostensibly comprehensive warrantless surveillance 24/7 of every American -- was scrapped amid public outcry.  But critics say the sweeping, Orwellian, and likely unconstitutional surveillance program was slowly and iteratively installed under more innocent sounding names in years to come.

Total Information Awareness

U.S. National Security Agency official William (Bill) Binney in late 2001 resigned over the government spending "millions and millions of dollars" on TIA's predecessor "TrailBlazer".  He commented on the system, "It's better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had."

Mr. Binney was just one of several NSA officials to resign when they realized the scope of what the Bush administration's intelligence agencies were planning.  J. Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis also left in protest and joined the complaint.

A fellow Trailblazer protester, former NSA agent and U.S. Air Force and Navy Thomas Andrews Drake spent a half-decade between 2000 and 2004 working his way up the command chain filing protests and complaints against Trailblazer.  He would eventually leak allegedly non-classified information to reporters after his complaints internally fell on deaf ears.

FBI Agents
The FBI have been busy raiding the houses of whistleblowers over the last decade and charging them with ambiguous "crimes". [Image Source: Global Elite]

After decades of honorably serving their country Binney, Drake, and others found themselves under the microscope, having their homes raided by the FBI.  In 2010, the government threw virtually every ambiguous charge it could against Mr. Drake, including counts of obstructing justice, making a false state, and computer fraud for "exceeding authorized use" of a computer.  Most charges were eventually dropped, but Mr. Drake pled down, pleading guilty to the exceeding authorized use charge.

President Obama
President Obama has had no tolerance for "snitches" in the intelligence community.
[Image Source: AP]

President Obama's crackdown on whistleblowers has been called unprecedented.

III. Surveillance Continues at Room 641a and Other Secret Locations

Meanwhile, in a 2007-era whistleblower-report supporting a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an expert witness suggested that the surveillance efforts were alive and well.  The witness in a court deposition wrote that the NSA had worked with AT&T, Inc. (T), the second largest wireless carrier in the country on a program to "vacuum up" phone traffic, internet traffic, emails, and more without warrant.

In that report, a retired 22-year AT&T technician, Mark Klein, recalls "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."

The alleged interception took place at a shadowy site dubbed "Room 641a" at an AT&T facility in San Francisco, Calif.  The room allegedly used splitters to duplicate and record every single communication for the region over fiber optic lines.  The facility was reportedly just one of multiple such facilities across the country.  Mr. Klein said he believed that virtually every major telecom/internet service provider was involved in the scheme and that virtually every form of digital communication was being recorded, based on his own first-hand experience.

IV. Many Americans Happy to Live in "1984 State" in Exchange for Safety 

Many naïvely hoped that under the President Barack Obama who campaigned under the slogan "Hope" that the domestic surveillance would be scaled back.  They pointed to a noisy "liberal" minority in Congress, which included Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) who had often warned that Americans would be "shocked" to know the extent of surveillance (members of Congress cannot share information on such programs, as that would be a crime).

But much like President Bush bucked members of a vocal minority in his party like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), President Obama's policies seemed to reject these dissenting voices and embrace his party's majority view (that all human communications must be captured in the name of fighting terrorism).  While President Obama often spoke of the need to "preserve civil liberties', he aggressively pushed to continue and expand Bush-era programs.

Bush and Obama
President Obama and his predecessor President Bush agree on many things, including that the federal government should be granted unregulated spying on its citizens.
[Image Source:]

The majority in both parties has embraced the perspective that the need for security trumps civil liberties.

Rep. Paul famously exclaimed on a late night television program, "Democracy isn't all that healthy in this country because if you're in a third party... you don't get in the debates... And if you ever come to the conclusion -- heaven forbid -- that the two parties aren't all that different, then what is left really?"

In 2010 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates briefly banned the use of Blackberries over Blackberry Ltd.'s (TSE:BB) refusal to give government regulators access to its encryption codes to customer communications, President Obama condemned the move.  But just weeks later his cabinet demanded access to all digital communications "including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype."

RIM eventually caved to the Arab nations' demands, installing similar surveillance systems as it allows in the U.S. and India.

In other words the consistent theme of the Obama administration's message to foreign governments has seemingly been: Do as I say, not as I DO.

Burning Constitution
4 out of 10 Americans would give up their Constitutional freedoms for safety from terrorism.  
[Source: Conservative Action Alerts]
But that may not hurt the administration as much politically as it would have in the past.  A poll [PDF] by CNN/TIME/ORC found out that approximately 4 out of 10 Americans would support giving up "some civil liberties" in the name of fighting an ambiguous "terrorism" threat.  That number is down just slightly since 9/11/2001, when 6 out of 10 Americans said they would gladly surrender their civil rights for safety.

While many might see merit in such arguments of safety and convenience, it's perhaps best to close with the words of Ben Franklin, who in his notes to the Pennsylvania Assembly famously wrote, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Source: CNN on YouTube

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Likely not entirely accurate
By GatoRat on 5/6/2013 11:51:39 AM , Rating: 4
While a single phone call can be recorded with a relatively small amount of data, ALL the phone calls would take up a an awful lot of storage space. My guess is that the program in question stores calls for a very short period of time (probably less than a day) UNLESS certain keywords show up OR one of the callers is on a watch list.

That said, this is an afront to our liberties. We are now entering a fascist police state.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By mcnabney on 5/6/2013 12:13:37 PM , Rating: 1
Don't you remember the actual phone calls on 9/11 being pulled from the providers for both analysis and also delivery to the families?

All wireless carriers 'cache' voice and text for a variable period of time. If something happens, the FBI (or local law enforcement) will subpoena it. This isn't the government eavesdropping without a warrant. It is modern technology. People already know that anything put online will be there forever. They know that deleting a file from their hard drive doesn't mean that it can't be recovered. Now they know that what they say on the phone THAT PASSES THROUGH THE NETWORK OF A PRIVATE COMPANY is retained for some small period of time.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By woody1 on 5/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By futrtrubl on 5/6/2013 3:45:48 PM , Rating: 5
Ooooh, I can suggest a wonderful conspiracy theory for how they built a storage facility. Remember those floods that destroyed all that hard drive manufacturing capacity and how hard drives became so scarce afterwards... OR DID IT?!?!? Dum dum DUUUHM!

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Stosh68 on 5/6/2013 7:17:38 PM , Rating: 1
If we're talking about this article:

then we are talking about a yottabyte of data. One factory would have to crank out a 4GB hard drive every second for 7927 years (give or take based on leap days) to reach 1 yottabyte of storage.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Stosh68 on 5/6/2013 7:19:02 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, can't edit above.

I meant 4TB, not 4GB.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By thorr2 on 5/6/2013 8:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
Awwwwwwrrrr Yoda! You seek Yoda! When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not!

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By leftcheek on 5/12/2013 5:36:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah basically the facility can hold several years worth of the entire information ouput of earth not the U.S. of EARTH.

By TeXWiller on 5/7/2013 9:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
And I thought it was the CERN who emptied the channel from those high capacity Hitachi drives I have tried to source.

NSA Utah, you're causing me pain! My kitchen tin foils needs a better use, with nothing to gain. Be a solidaric bro and let the channel to be. Then I can build my systems of dreams, you see.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By rs2 on 5/6/2013 8:10:24 PM , Rating: 5
Please. It's *exactly* eavesdropping without a warrant. Or at least that's what it becomes the moment any government agency accesses the information for any purpose, with or without probable cause.

They have no grounds whatsoever to access conversations recorded at a time when no legal authority to wiretap/record conversations had been issued. That a private organization happened to produce the recordings is irrelevant; just because recordings exist doesn't mean that the government can legally make use of them. And if they ever tried to present such information as evidence before a court, you can bet it would be thrown out due to the fact that it was attained without a warrant.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Samus on 5/7/2013 12:25:42 AM , Rating: 2
This 'government policy' has existed for decades. And it isn't a government policy, its a communications carrier policy that has existed since everything moved away from switchboards.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 2:33:58 PM , Rating: 2
It's not eavesdropping if no one listens to it. The only time people bother to even spend the time to find the data is when you're being investigated on a high priority level.

When you request data in storage like this, you get a data dump so you don't have to request it multiple times. Trust me, everyone hate sifting through a data dump. It will take you days or weeks to find one little thing you want.

Like the article says, you can't identify a person with this low quality audio. It won't be admissable as evidence even if it's legal. The only point of this is to get clues to help with the investigation. As a regular person committing no serious crime, I don't think anyone will ever listen to a single audio track containing your voice in it.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Belard on 5/6/2013 12:14:23 PM , Rating: 2
the recording of e everyone's phone calls have been going on for decades. back in the mid 90s, my phone rang, I picked it up and heard the conversation I had hours earlier... it played for several seconds... then dead. not sure why... a glitch in their system. (the matrix lol)

so yeah, their system looks for keywords that relates to terrorism or or certain death threats... that's a security issue. for day to day junk... they could care less.

hell, newscorp/fox hacks phones and computers for years... hence they are under investigations and possible trial.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Reclaimer77 on 5/6/2013 7:00:30 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah didn't Clinton start this in the 90's with the Echelon program?

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Belard on 5/7/2013 1:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing its all just Echelon.

The US Govt. is active in preventing terrorist attacks, most we never hear about.

By Skywalker123 on 5/7/2013 9:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
The U.S govt is active in instigating terrorist attacks, all o f which are heavily advertised as FBI successes.

There, fixed it for you

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Piiman on 5/11/2013 10:49:35 AM , Rating: 2
Even if they care less now, which You have no proof they don't, someday they will and it will be used against you.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By arazok on 5/6/2013 12:24:24 PM , Rating: 2
No, they can go back at least months, most likely years. The FBI agent providing this revelation indicated they could go back and listen to all the calls the Boston bombers had with their mother and see if she had any involvement.

On one hand, I’m glad that this capability is only used for terrorism and national security related crimes. On the other, I find it a huge violation of my privacy to know, well, that I no longer have any privacy. At all.

Not many people know that what got Elliot Spitzer caught with prostitutes wasn’t that he got busted in some sting or other random police trap. It was because he liked the really expensive whores, and the government flagged him for withdrawing too much cash.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By MrBlastman on 5/6/2013 3:07:08 PM , Rating: 5
I’m glad that this capability is only used for terrorism and national security related crimes.

It is naive to think that this type of power is only used for terrorism and national security. Say something wrong to the right person in power... pretty soon you'll be looked into as well--terrorist or not.

What's going to stop those that have the power from abusing it? Nothing. Not a darn thing. Because... "talking about it is a crime."

See the problem here?

The Federal Government in no way, shape or form has any reason or legitimate right to have power like this. Ever. Terrorism or not. They should never, ever have this kind of power.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By RedemptionAD on 5/7/2013 10:09:10 AM , Rating: 2
1. The only realistic way that this could be happening is a "flagging" system where certain words are flagged and said communications are recorded. That method also come with the issue of false flags like a virus detector getting a false positive.

2. This capability, much like NSLs, has the great capability for malicious use by authorities unless proper oversight and fitting consequences for malicious use are utilized. It is, as long as it is done properly, a good thing for the general public.

By MrBlastman on 5/7/2013 3:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
Flagging or not, I believe it is a violation of our First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

A court of law should be the only thing that can authorize a search or seizure of property. Property in this case is information--or our thoughts. Our thoughts are protected by the First Amendment as it is our right to have and speak them freely without repercussions.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Constitution is clear on this. By collecting information based on a key word (which I don't think is the only thing they do), even then, would be a violation of the document because a Judge never issued a warrant to collect the information. Not only that, but as I see it, even looking at the information is a violation of wiretapping statutes.

Why do we tolerate this? Why do people think it is okay? Are we all resolute in our acceptance that terrorism has won and fear must dominate our lives?

Guess what? We /already/ had a provision in the Constitution to safeguard us against terrorism! It is known as the Second Amendment! There is no need to infringement upon our freedoms to keep us secure! None!

The people can police themselves. They need not rely upon our Government to keep them secure. If the people actually gave a darn enough to wake up one day and stop looking at their PDAs, start caring enough to carry protection by arming themselves and grew enough spine stand up for their neighbors... we wouldn't be where we are right now.

I'm sorry, I refuse to accept that any of this is a good thing for the general public. Even "safeguards" that supposedly can be put in place to only record "necessary" information are a weak lie at best. None of this is needed. None of this should be accepted.

As for the post after yours--even with all the checks and balances in place, it only takes one or two people to tell the Department of Justice to "look the other way" until the statute of limitations passes. Oh, now I'm sounding like Tom Clancy but perhaps his thoughts are genuinely worth consideration.

Americans need to wake up and start realizing their Freedom--their way of life, is in jeopardy and only as guaranteed as those in power want them to be right now. The people don't care enough anymore to deserve any of them.

There's no compromise on monitoring our phonecalls or computing. The moment a compromise is made is the moment more compromises can be "justified" in the name of "whatever evil is named at the moment" by those in power at the time.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 12:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
Any type of power is abused anywhere regardless if it's government or not. At least in the government, there are systems set up to stop these malicious intents. Is it perfect? no.

For example, these data centers are separate from the people using it. To use it, you need to request access and have justification. You leave a trail of evidence behind you that is not erasable despite what Hollywood makes you believe. The only problem no one will catch on until it becomes abuse and shows a pattern to raise eye brows. Unfortunately, there's not enough people to monitor everything so that is why it could take months to years before someone is caught. On top of that, an investigation must take place. That is why you always see news about someone being caught after years of their crimes.

If you don't notice, there's been a new degree program in the past few years and it's called IT Information Security. It wasn't primarily developed to stop hackers from China. That is just one of its objective. The government is hiring 10s of thousands of IT Info Sec specialists to monitor and improve the network. They also need them to assist criminal investigation and development. If you want to a quick way to get a 6 figure job right now, that is the field you want to be in.

Don't worry, the FBI or CIA won't bother to listen to any of your calls unless an investigation requires them to. They don't have that many people in their agencies and most of them are not agents. Everyone operates under clearances, agreements and oaths. Believe me, no one wants to lose their clearance or do stupid stuff for kicks. Losing your clearance means your career is gone and no one will ever employ you. On top of that, you have a good chance of going to federal prison. Yea clearances gets you high pay, cool jobs and all but your life will be boring and your liabilities are high.

By Skywalker123 on 5/7/2013 10:01:16 PM , Rating: 3
Are u really that naive?

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Dr of crap on 5/6/13, Rating: 0
RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 12:45:55 PM , Rating: 4
until you realize that youtube and netflix stores videos which takes up space magnitudes higher than what basic voice and text data will ever take up.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By chripuck on 5/6/2013 1:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
Until you realize that 160 million Americans making 1 hour of telephone calls a day stored at 64kbps audio rate would result in 33 PETAbytes of data. That's 34,000 terabytes or 35,000,000 gigabytes. In a single day.

Assuming they used 16kbps compressed audio you could cut it by 75% but you're still looking at 8.4 petabytes a day or 8,600 terabytes.

If you didn't read this article and immediately think BS, you're either incredibly gullible or not nearly as "techie" as you think you are.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By woody1 on 5/6/2013 1:23:40 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct, sir.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 1:43:14 PM , Rating: 2
Until you realize you are wrong lol

800 bit/s – minimum necessary for recognizable speech, using the special-purpose FS-1015 speech codecs.
1400 bit/s – lowest bitrate open-source speech codec Codec2.[13]
2.15 kbit/s – minimum bitrate available through the open-source Speex codec.
8 kbit/s – telephone quality using speech codecs.

After compression, I see no problems storing these things.
You also fail to realize there are screening systems so not all conversations are recorded.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By brasstax on 5/6/2013 6:34:05 PM , Rating: 2
Why store audio at all when you can store plain text transcriptions instead? Afterall, all this stuff needs to be transcribed in the first place to pull out all those scary words.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 2
because a text transcription requires the audio to be translated into words. The problem with voice recognition is it's no efficient enough. The best voice recognition is and will always be a human.

Google and Apple has made strides in voice recognition but it is still not efficient. You think that it works most of the time because it recognize the most used words. So it's basically using probability to guess words more than recognizing words. But I have to say it is 100x better than what we had in the 90s. Still not anywhere close to being able to perfect transcribe something.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By FaaR on 5/6/2013 5:26:43 PM , Rating: 2
Your contrived and fabricated example is of course tailored to come out to the conclusion you wish it to. I doubt 160 million americans spend a full hour per day on the phone. Also, even 16kbit/s is excessive for what you need to store simple voice communication in a very narrow frequency band (500Hz-3kHz roughly.)

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Nutzo on 5/6/2013 1:09:48 PM , Rating: 2
Text storage is nothing compared to current drive space.
Phone conversations would be much higher, but with the advances in storage the past few years, it's not a big deal.

With 4TB drives, I can build a simple 2U server with 48TB of storage. With Raid 6, that would still be 40TB
You can install 20 2u servers in a rack, so that's 800TB of raid storage in a single rack. Multiply that by 40-50 racks, and they could store anything they want, in duplicate.

Do you still think the government, with the trillions it spends, couldn't afford to store all the texts/calls people make?

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By chripuck on 5/6/2013 1:17:47 PM , Rating: 2
See my comment: you have your sense of scale wrong regarding audio. Even at 16kbps, with 160 million Americans making 1 hour of phone calls a day would result in petabyts of data... for a single day. Even if redundancy wasn't an issue it would take nearly 3000 3 TB hard drives to store a single days worth of phone calls.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By woody1 on 5/6/2013 1:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
Carriers have trouble keeping up with the services they make money from and have no desire to lose money by doing things that don't make them money. Everything in the telecom world is engineered close to capacity to save money. Thus, telecoms only buy new storage when they absolutely have to.

The idea that the telecoms would spend vast amounts of money to store conversations with no profit to be made is absurd. Telecoms argue endlessly over whether to put more money into voicemail systems, network capacity, etc. Nobody would be able to justify wasting money on storing conversations for no reason.

The NSA, on the other hand, might want to do this and might eventually have the capacity to do so. They're the ones to be concerned about.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 3
see my post..nah i'll just repost like you did

800 bit/s – minimum necessary for recognizable speech, using the special-purpose FS-1015 speech codecs.
1400 bit/s – lowest bitrate open-source speech codec Codec2.[13]
2.15 kbit/s – minimum bitrate available through the open-source Speex codec.
8 kbit/s – telephone quality using speech codecs.

This is before compression and before filtering out most of the crap.

The other thing is people don't even average 1 hr a day. I'm on the phone maybe a total of 4 hrs a month. My work phone barely gets used also. Information is more reliable through text messages and emails. I only know of one person that actually use more than 900 minutes a month but that's because she didn't have a job.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Camikazi on 5/6/2013 1:56:58 PM , Rating: 2
That would be you, but there are many work places and people who spend more than 1 hour per day on the phone as an average. You make a god point about the compression and the bitrates but messed up thinking that you represent the average people when it comes to telephone use.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 2:06:09 PM , Rating: 2
no it's not. Look at these statistics based on teens. We all know teens use phones more than anyone.

It would say an average person would only spend 400-500 minutes a month.

Then you calculate that after screen all phone calls, only 10%(guess) contain the keywords they are looking for and only those gets recorded. Yeah, the numbers just gets smaller and smaller.

If you guys don't realize this, there's more to storage than just Hard drives. What you see everyday is not everything that exist.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Bad-Karma on 5/6/2013 1:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you guys need to think more along the lines of massive robotic LTO tape libraries for long term storage.

In my line of work, Quantum and a few others are very big within government IT. You see some very extensive systems being deployed. I've even see on with a robot using hard drives. The actual walls where the stored the drives was bigger than a couple of Imax theater walls slapped together. And then there were multiple walls.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 2:08:39 PM , Rating: 2
You have common sense :)

By timothyd97402 on 5/6/2013 3:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
And yet the Library of Congress is right now embarking on a project to record every tweet that every twit ever twittered for posterity.

Believe, my friend. The NSA already has one facility that covers square miles of land. The budget for that outfit is estimated at over 50 billion a year. All they do is listen to, record and analyze electronic communications.

$50 billion dollars a year buys a LOT of hard drives and computers.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2013 4:02:36 PM , Rating: 2
The space needed for texts is miniscule. A full-length text message is 140 bytes, and that's if you type a 160 character text.

A normal 1 TB hard drive would store about 7 billion texts. Most texts are smaller than this, and some people send pictures, but as you can see it doesn't really come out to be a whole lot. Wikipedia says that in 2010, about 6.1 trillion texts were sent worldwide. So it would be easily storable in a very small datacenter.

By Rott3nHIppi3 on 5/10/2013 12:51:54 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking from experience (and going down this path)... Sprint holds all phone call info and text msgs for 2 yrs. Can't obtain it without a subpoena, but yeah.......They're storing it.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Argon18 on 5/6/2013 1:56:46 PM , Rating: 2
No, it wouldn't require all that much space to record all phone communications. Remember, conversational voice has much lower fidelity requirements than music. While a 128 kbps stream of music doesn't sound all that great (for music), you can have crystal clear voice conversations with just 6 kbps. Voice over IP, for example, works just fine over a dial-up modem. Plus it's highly compressible using modern codecs like AAC or MP3, so it takes up even less storage space.

Text messages and email don't take much space either, with the exception of large binary email attachments. Text is highly compressible.

With modern codecs and compression algorithms, combined with modern multi-terabyte hard drives, storing all this information is no sweat. The challenge is in the software that's used to search and access all this data. But then again, companies like Google have spent millions of man hours developing exactly this sort of big-data software tools. Heck, Google even packages and sells it, in the form of a Google Appliance.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By Jeffk464 on 5/6/2013 2:38:03 PM , Rating: 2
If this were true it would be really easy for a large number of americans to defeat. All that needs to be done is basically a denile of service attack. You get a whole bunch of people or a botnet to use the "keywords" over and over again. The FBI and NSA wouldn't have the manpower to be able to sift through all the conversations. just saying --- I am Spartacus

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By TacticalTrading on 5/6/2013 2:51:47 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone work the phrase...
"It's the bomb"
into your phone conversations. then it has to be saved LOL

System Overload

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By chimto on 5/6/2013 8:20:08 PM , Rating: 2
This is the NSA and your post has been logged.

Thank you and have a nice day.

RE: Likely not entirely accurate
By kfonda on 5/6/2013 9:51:47 PM , Rating: 4
you are fined one credit for a violation of the verbal morality statute...

By NellyFromMA on 5/9/2013 1:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
These recordings have largely always been happening. It's just that now there is a unified gateway to query the various disparate databases of the various telecoms.

Let's Look At The Data
By Stiggalicious on 5/6/2013 1:17:10 PM , Rating: 2
To shed some light on this, I thought I might calculate some things. I will assume some data, and gather some other data that I can find, so this is obviously just a ballpark figure.

# phone users in US: ~230 million
Average phone usage per person: 459 minutes/month
Data usage for compressed audio: 14.4Kbits/s

So when you calculate a total monthly data usage for storing phone conversations, you get 4.19GB/s, or 362.5TB of data added per day.

That's adding a 2TB hard drive to the stack every 8 minutes. Seagate must be getting some sweet business...

If the government has been doing this since 2002 (when the largest HDD was around 250GB) and has been continually storing data since then, that's a total of 1.45 MILLION Terabytes of data.Assuming the average hard drive size is 750GB, that's almost two million hard drives.
How many racks of servers would this take to fit?
The most dense commercially available storage system (excluding Backblaze, which is too new and too awesome for government) can fit 16 3.5" HDDs in a 3U case. A standard rack is 44U high, so that leaves us with 224 HDDs per rack.

Therefore, if you were to store every phone conversation in the US since 2002, you'd need over Eight and a half Thousand server racks of hard drives, which would fit in a building that's about 3.5 acres in size.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 1:59:33 PM , Rating: 2

800 bit/s – minimum necessary for recognizable speech, using the special-purpose FS-1015 speech codecs.
1400 bit/s – lowest bitrate open-source speech codec Codec2.[13]
2.15 kbit/s – minimum bitrate available through the open-source Speex codec.
8 kbit/s – telephone quality using speech codecs.

If I was to record just to record the information of the speech then I only need recognizable speech as using for evidence is not allowed anyways. 800 bits/sec is good enough.
All converations are then screened and filtered. Most of them probably gets deleted. Of course a computer does all this based on keywords. The amount of data stored is nowhere near what anybody here is speculating.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2013 2:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
The most dense commercially available storage system (excluding Backblaze, which is too new and too awesome for government) can fit 16 3.5" HDDs in a 3U case.

We have disk arrays here at work that have 24 drives in a 2U chassis. They're the smaller drives that are becoming more popular.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By BRB29 on 5/6/2013 2:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
It's a no brainer for any IT Director to know that recording phone convos are high capacity extremely low access data. The most cost effective way to do this is tape storage. They can last a long time if they are not constantly accessed. This technology has been around for a long time

Provide up to 900 PB of automated, low-cost storage under a single library image , improving floor space utilization and reducing storage cost per TB with IBM 3592 JC Enterprise Advanced Data Cartridges

One base frame and up to 15 expansion frames per library; up to 15 libraries interconnected per complex
Up to 12 drives per frame (up to 192 per library, up to 2,700 per complex)
Up to 224 I/O slots (16 I/O slots standard)
IBM 3592 JA/JJ/JB/JC and JW/JR/JX/JY write-once-read-many (WORM) cartridges or LTO Ultrium 6, 5 and 4 cartridges
Up to 125 PB compressed with LTO Ultrium 6 cartridges per library, up to 1.875 EB compressed per complex
Up to 180 PB compressed with 3592 extended capacity cartridges per library, up to 2.7 EB compressed per complex

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2013 4:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the actually calls themselves would probably be stored on tapes, while the database containing the transcripts of the calls would be on disk. Then they can bring them up whenever they need to.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By MrBlastman on 5/6/2013 3:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
Why would they use hard drives? Tapes man, tapes! They've been around for decades and they're quite a bit cheaper than hard drives. DAT tapes, digital tapes, tapes of all types. You use the hard drive to record a database of what tape goes with what set of calls and where it is stored. You use the tapes to record the actual conversations.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2013 3:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
If the government has been doing this since 2002 (when the largest HDD was around 250GB) and has been continually storing data since then, that's a total of 1.45 MILLION Terabytes of data...
Therefore, if you were to store every phone conversation in the US since 2002, you'd need over Eight and a half Thousand server racks of hard drives, which would fit in a building that's about 3.5 acres in size.

That's actually not that big for a datacenter. Where I work we have multiple datacenters, each of which that can handle this amount of data and my company isn't huge. Apple has a 20 acre datacenter and the government is working on things even bigger, such as this 35 acre monster capable of storing yottabytes (trillions of terabytes) worth of data.

To put it into perspective, at the data rate you mentioned, that new Utah Data Center would be able to store 7.5 million years' worth of phone calls. And that's if it's only 1 yottabyte. The article mentions it's many yottabytes.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By Jeffk464 on 5/6/2013 5:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
I live next to that data center in your link, you want me to knock on the door and ask them?

PS should be good for property value, this area is turning into silicon valley.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By Mint on 5/7/2013 10:57:28 AM , Rating: 2
We may not have kept everything since 2002, but your 400TB/day figure tells us how easy it is to archive this stuff today.

Even at retail prices, that costs less than $20k per day for raw storage, which is peanuts for the US gov't. Sure, processing and using that data in a meaningful way costs more, but it's well inside the realm of possibility.

After the Patriot Act passed, I gave up on all hope of protecting privacy from the gov't. At this point, though, I'd rather have them covering it up than make it public, because when trying to hide it they will be much more careful with the data to prevent egg on their face.

The last thing I want is for them to treat data as carelessly as corporations do, where we almost expect weekly breaches.

RE: Let's Look At The Data
By gmyx on 5/7/2013 3:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think math is correct at all:

Lets take your numbers: 230m users using 459 minutes a month, stored at 14.4kbit/s (I know it can be much lower)

That is 105 570 000 000 minutes of audio per month. But bit rates are in seconds: 844 560 000 000 seconds of audio.

Using 14.4kbits / second: 12 161 664 000 000 kbits required to store that. But that is bits... 1 520 208 000 000 kbytes. Full number: 1 520 208 000 000 000 bytes.

Space required per month: 1500tb -> 1.5pb per month.

Unless my math is wrong as well and you can down rate me ;)

By karimtemple on 5/6/2013 11:35:37 AM , Rating: 2
If "freedom or safety" wasn't a false dilemma, I would absolutely choose freedom over safety. Who are these losers who just need to be safe??

Except it is a false dilemma. We can be free and (relatively) safe at the same time. It's actually fairly simple. I'm getting really sick of all this witless 1984 wiretapping drone strike stuff that keeps coming out. It's unnecessary and lazy.

RE: Priorities
By Argon18 on 5/6/2013 2:02:58 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. Lots of dopes who think taking away your freedoms are the only way to achieve safety. Look at the gun control nuts, for example. They want to take away everyone's 2nd amendment rights in the name of "safety". One only needs to look at DC or LA or Chicago or Detroit to see how "safe" cities are when you prevent law abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves. Criminals thrive in "gun free zones".

RE: Priorities
By Garrettino on 5/6/2013 4:28:57 PM , Rating: 2
Criminals thrive in "gun free zones"

That's not true. Britain is a gun free zone and it only had 638 murders in 2011 (3,095 when you adjust for the U.S. population difference) compared to 12,996 murders in the U.S.

In 2011 Britain only had 58 murders by firearms (equivalent to 290 U.S. murders), but the U.S. had 8,775 murders by firearms. 290 versus 8,775. Sorry, but you're wrong.

RE: Priorities
By Solandri on 5/6/2013 5:19:37 PM , Rating: 2
You're both right. Yes you're more likely to be killed by a gun (or any other weapon for that matter) in the U.S. But you're more than twice as likely to be assaulted, robbed, or raped in the UK.

Yes, being killed is much more serious than being attacked/raped or robbed. But the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is about 3.6 per 100,000 per year. Over an 80 year lifetime that's a 0.3% chance of being killed by a firearm.

So it's a trade-off. A 0.3% higher lifetime chance of being murdered by a firearm, in exchange for your lifetime chance of being assaulted being reduced from 2.8% to 1.2%, chance of being robbed reduced from 1.2% to 0.6%, and (for women) your chance of being raped reduced from 0.9% to 0.4%.

RE: Priorities
By boeush on 5/7/2013 3:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
On the other hand, countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are positively drowning in guns. And bombs. And RPGs and mines and grenades and... One could hardly imagine any places more peaceful and free, in the whole wide world... But damn, if they aren't good customers, at least if you're peddling the right kind of product, know what I mean, wink-wink nudge-nudge :)

Echelon has been around for YEARS AND YEARS...
By SAN-Man on 5/6/2013 1:46:26 PM , Rating: 3
It may go by a different name now, but the principal is the same...

This is nothing new.

If you want privacy encrypt your data and use voice services which are not monitored closely.

By ppardee on 5/6/2013 3:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
It is now called Aquinas, but it isn't controlled by the US Government anymore. It is owned, funded and run by MJ12 and FEMA.

By rippleyaliens on 5/7/2013 3:09:21 AM , Rating: 2
This Technology has been around for YEARS... The ability to do a FEW at first. IE Target 2-20 people, for a full Surveillance ride.
Say in
1995- 850MB
1996- 1.6 Gb
1999 20GB
2005 120GB
2009 2TB
2013 4TB
-Storage is avaliable now, SPEED of Processors even INSANE, isnt close. From 60mhz (1995)-Present-15 Cores 3.5GHZ...
The Higher the storage, the Obvious desire to expand the programs. Now we have SSD Arrays, that 3U = 1.4 Million I/ops..
And just getting faster.

Of course.. they do it. Hence the agent wrote, in words. "Obviously if you say steal a Car.." -They dont care.. IF you say, something HEAVY.. Then they highlight you. Increase HIGH Level Surveillance.

Every INTEL Tick\Tock= THAT much more Computers put into use, To Make it faster, FASTER, Really FAST..

Problem is= Even with the POLICE force\MILITARY, THAT is not enough people to handle 330 Million Americans..

Hence they found that bomber FAST!!! as hell. I believe they KNEW, and were building up the case.. TOO FAST. I know the FBI, is good. BUT Damn.. That was INSANE in speed.. SOCIAL Media=PERFECT Cover.. Since we all Have computers as smartphones.. Why would they NOT do that??

By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 2:05:46 PM , Rating: 3

needle in a haystack
By JimKiler on 5/6/2013 1:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
The government can record all the data they want. They cannot easily find our conversations. The analogy of a needle in a haystack would become more like a needle in a needlestack when you record everything. There is only so much the computers can flag and they cannot hire enough people to listen to our calls.

RE: needle in a haystack
By 91TTZ on 5/6/2013 3:35:38 PM , Rating: 2
The government can record all the data they want. They cannot easily find our conversations. The analogy of a needle in a haystack would become more like a needle in a needlestack when you record everything. There is only so much the computers can flag and they cannot hire enough people to listen to our calls.

It's not difficult at all to do that.

I work in a datacenter and we used to have a client in here that had racks and racks of cable boxes, each recording a station. It also used a speech to text converter to transcribe what was said on every program. That data was stored on database servers and indexed so you could find out what was said and bring up a clip of them saying it. Politicians and talk show hosts used to use their service.

The same most likely happens with phone conversations. The conversation is recorded, speech converted to text, text ran through a filter (and stored), and the recording itself will be stored if certain keywords are triggered and discarded if they're not.

The "needle in a haystack" analogy only worked before databases were common. Now everything is indexed and that needle can be found in a fraction of a second.

"What the hell just happened?"
By Amiga500 on 5/6/2013 1:10:08 PM , Rating: 2
"I blew up the building."


"Because you made a phone call!"

By drycrust3 on 5/6/2013 4:54:44 PM , Rating: 2
"All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not"

One of the problems with this statement is ambiguous words were used which, intentionally or otherwise, could blur the truth. When this guy says "being captured" what does the average person think? They think about the words they spoke in their last phone call and maybe someone recorded them, but is that what this former FBI meant?
From the perspective of a phone company, speaking is only a small (and arguably minor) part of what took place, billing people is the important thing. A whole ton of things took place involving lots of expensive stuff before the parties even spoke, like something in the system has to listen to the tones from their phone keypad and interpret what those tones mean, somehow phone calls need to get from one locality to another, etc. All this involves expensive equipment, so no one should be surprised that phone companies love billing, and billing means records. Phone companies have been billing people for years and years.
So "being captured" could mean a record for billing purposes was made. Is that the whole conversation? No, it isn't, it is a billing record showing that a switching connection between two known phones took place for a known duration! How much data does that take? Not a lot, it probably involves tens of bytes. That isn't the sort of data that one would call "a whole conversation".
I know the price of hard drives is dropping, and that every government in the world has legislation that allows for the recording of phone calls for the people of interest, but that isn't the same as every phone conversation in America being recorded.
As I've shown, while this former FBI agent spoke the truth, it is arguable that what he said is nothing new. He should have been more specific about what he said because "being captured" is a very loose term.

These "people"
By snyper256 on 5/12/2013 8:46:05 AM , Rating: 2
These people honestly believe that they own you and everything you do.
I hope you all realize that.

By AngelaCarter08 on 5/8/2013 1:08:35 PM , Rating: 1
upto I looked at the bank draft that said $7008, I be certain brothers friend realy erning money parttime on their laptop.. there friends cousin has been doing this for only about 12 months and just now paid for the mortgage on there place and bought a top of the range Lancia. I went here, All29.comTAKE A LOOK

this is bad...
By xti on 5/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: this is bad...
By Mitch101 on 5/6/2013 11:22:51 AM , Rating: 2
Milk, Garlic, chives, onion, bacon, and Butter. Muhahahahahaha.

RE: this is bad...
By mrwassman on 5/6/2013 11:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
I talk about making meth and doing cocaine all the time and I still haven't gotten a knock.

RE: this is bad...
By SublimeSimplicity on 5/6/2013 11:35:06 AM , Rating: 5
Maybe they figure if you're cooking meth while high on cocaine, the problem will just take care of itself.

RE: this is bad...
By JasonMick on 5/6/2013 11:39:34 AM , Rating: 2
Or they're leaving him around to act as a honeypot. ;)

By BRB29 on 5/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: hm
By Cluebat on 5/6/2013 2:40:16 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know why this was downrated. I remember that national conversation. Warrants were to be required for human intervention.

RE: hm
By BRB29 on 5/7/2013 2:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
It should be obvious that there's plenty of anti-government people here.

RE: hm
By Skywalker123 on 5/7/2013 10:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry as a government loving,trusting, naive fool you make up for it

RE: hm
By BRB29 on 5/8/2013 7:42:12 AM , Rating: 2
i don't love or trust the government. You just have some phobia against it. I guess I am a naive fool because I actually know what's going on rather than making up conspiracy like you lot.

RE: hm
By Skywalker123 on 5/8/2013 8:08:33 AM , Rating: 2

you know more than the former assistant treasurer of the U.S.?
Here he's not talking about wiretapping but about how the government is lying about the economy. you have talked about how good the government is and they have checks and balances to prevent this type of thing.I can post tons of similar links, not from wingnuts, but people like Roberts.

RE: hm
By BRB29 on 5/8/2013 10:26:46 AM , Rating: 2
I also said it's not perfect. I also said there's always a few bad people creating problems for everyone else. The site you linked is very biased.

The BLS doesn't lie, people interpreting statistics do. Did you even read and analyze the BLS or do you just believe an article. I can have many counter points to that article. For example, the article says job growth doesn't keep up with population growth. It doesn't have to because not everyone is seeking for employment.

Here is my gripe, people think the government is out to get them. It's not true. Anyone can work for the government. There's just as many bad people working in the government as there are anywhere else. There seems to be more corrupt politicians than good ones. I agree with everyone. Instead of doing something about it, why are you just here echoing the same complaints? Go do something about it. Go run for office. Go make a DIFFERENCE. Otherwise, everything you're doing is just whining.

RE: hm
By Skywalker123 on 5/9/2013 4:37:50 AM , Rating: 2
The site is biased? Roberts is a former asst treasury secretary and also associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. (is that another anti government rag?) I think he knows a little bit more than you about economics.Job growth doesn't have to keep up with population growth? Oh, that's right,people can just get welfare and go on food stamps, speaking of which there is a a record amount of americans on them during this "recovery".

I don't think the goverment is out to "get" everyone. The government is out to promote themselves and all its rich and powerful constituents.(Think Eisenhower's "Military-Industrial complex)

Do something about it? Run for office? ROFLMAO! You think the political parties will let you be elected if you threaten them? You really are living in a dream world.

RE: hm
By BRB29 on 5/10/2013 9:44:00 AM , Rating: 2
First, did you even bother to read the BLS? because I also saw a huge growth in Professional jobs, which is always a good thing. It's funny how something like that is not mentioned.

Second, the site is obviously biased. You don't see it because you agree with them. All the articles seem to have the same agenda.

Third, just because he was a assistant secretary of treasury doesn't mean he's not biased. lol and wall street is biased, not like Fox News but it is still biased.

I don't think I know more than him but that doesn't mean his opinion is not biased. Job growth doesn't have to keep up with population growth because not everyone works. Get that through your head.

Yes run for office! it's not a joke. If you actually read a history book, there was actually a point where a third political party gained massive power in the government. It existed because both Democrats and Republicans were ignoring the people. It can happen again. With your attitude, you will get nowhere in life.

RE: hm
By Piiman on 5/11/2013 11:52:12 AM , Rating: 2
What makes you think you "know whats going on".

Let say the government is over thrown and the new one doens't like people that "know what is going on"?

Feel safer now?

The whole problem is that it can be used in ways it was not meant to be at some point.

Don't tread on me!
By Ammohunt on 5/6/13, Rating: -1
"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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