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United States Democrats Government Privacy Security Politics

US Started Keeping Secret Records of International Telephone Calls In 1992 81

schwit1 writes Starting in 1992, the Justice Department amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries. The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans' privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials described the details of the Justice Department operation to USA TODAY. Most did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence program, part of which remains classified. The operation had 'been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority,' including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.
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US Started Keeping Secret Records of International Telephone Calls In 1992

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  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @09:06PM (#49434915)
    What's the point if you can't collect pictures of people's junk? Also, given how teens act today, wouldn't the NSA have the largest collection of pedo in the world? Apparently the NSA does think of the children.
    • no i thinks that award goes to snapchat.
    • Actually, law enforcement agencies do collect a lot of pedo . . . for forensic analysis. They look for clues in the periphery of the photos that might lead police to the culprit. For example, a calender on the wall in Russian or other clues that give away location information.

      Or, if they have enough pictures of the victim's face, they can build a face recognition model with OpenCV. Then they can combine this with a TOR crawler to attempt to collect even more pictures, which may have even more clues.

    • I carefully plan the length and timing of my phone calls so that if you graph them against each other it draws a picture of my junk.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This revelation explains why the NSA was pushing on Qwest to be their spy bitches 6 months before 9/11. [washingtonpost.com]

  • Nope (Score:4, Informative)

    by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @09:17PM (#49434963)

    Nope. The US started monitoring all international calls much earlier. Read a book on the NSA.

    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe.jwsmythe@com> on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @09:39PM (#49435053) Homepage Journal

      I'd be willing to wager that intelligence monitoring of international phone calls started right about the time international phone calls were first available.

      This article [edn.com] says the first trans-Atlantic calls was in 1927.

      This article [howstuffworks.com] says government wiretaps started in the 1860s.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        It was easy back in the day as, at least some, overseas long distance was over shortwave so anyone could listen. The first satellites were also likely easy to listen in on, at least given having the equipment.

        • Some were over telegraph wires too. I like this story [iol.co.za].

          Atkins continued to call Cuba and finally came back the words, clear and distinct: "I don't understand you."

          With those words, international voice communication began.

          ... and Verizon is still asking "can you hear me now." [youtube.com]

          ... and this guy [youtube.com] keeps answering the calls. I feel his pain.

    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Informative)

      by quenda ( 644621 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @10:30PM (#49435289)

      Read a book on the NSA.

      That would be The Puzzle Palace [wikipedia.org] by James Bamford published in 1982,
      which detailed how the NSA were intercepting all international calls by methods including replicating the phone-company satellite base-stations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        which detailed how the NSA were intercepting all international calls by methods including replicating the phone-company satellite base-stations

        That's crazy tinfoil-hattery libertarian nutzo Echelon talk, dude.

  • Janet Reno and Eric Holder authorized mass surveillance of Americans? That's going to sting for some people, it's a little hard to blame that one on George W. Bush.

    Yes it's Constitution Thursday and time to blame Bill Clinton's administration for stepping on the rights of the American people for a newly revealed outrage touching all Americans during peacetime.

    Remember Elian! [wikipedia.org]

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @10:30PM (#49435283)
      And according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_12333, that part of it dates back to Reagan.

      Really, I don't think you're going to find any president in recent history whose hands are clean on any of this. They're all responsible for adding another layer or two. The only time I can think of anything getting rolled back was the Church Committee and such in response to Watergate, but even that didn't go nearly far enough, I suspect.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Try looking up Project Shamrock....I think maybe the termination of that effort was actually just a ruse....you announce publicly that you've terminated the project, but when you have a high enough clearance, you find the program was just buried a little deeper....

      • And according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org], that part of it dates back to Reagan.

        That appears to be false. If you read the article and the Wikipedia entry it seems pretty clear that those are different streams of government effort with diferent goals (intelligence vs law enforcement), scope, and methodologies. Then there is this gem from the artilce linked in the summary:

        Agents said that when the data collection began, they sought to limit its use mainly to drug investigations and turned away requests for access from the FBI and the NSA.

        As far as presidents "whose hands are clean," I think that depends on some points of clarification. The Church Committee was addressing actual abusive conduct or misuse of law enforcement or intelligence. What is ab

    • except Clinton didn't take office until 1993, the election was in 1992 yes but Inauguration isn't until January the next year. But hey don't let facts stand in your way of being a troll.

  • You REALLY think the first time they monitored international calls was 1992? Maybe that's the first time they could definitively say they got ALL of them?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness the government had the good sense to protect us from ourselves. We very well could have ended up a nation of hopeless addicts constantly scouring social media sites in search of validation of our otherwise meaningless existences.

  • That year conveniently allows us to put all the blame squarely on Bill Clinton.
    • Re:1992, eh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @09:52PM (#49435125) Homepage Journal

      Clinton took office in January of 1993

      This is yet another started by an R, continued by a D.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Clinton took office in January of 1993

        Shh! Don't tell that to the slashdot conservatives. You know that, I know that, wikipedia knows that, but to the conservative narrative 1992 is squarely in the Clinton years and everything bad that happened during it is 100% his fault.

        Just as everything that happened between 2000 (when Clinton left office) and now is Obama's fault.

        • Shh! Don't tell that to the slashdot conservatives.

          Looks to me like the only person that needed to be told was you, and it also looks like after you were told that you tried pretending that you knew all along.

        • Just as everything that happened between 2000 (when Clinton left office) and now is Obama's fault.

          That can't be true since everything has been Bush's fault well into the Obama administration. The Obama administration and its allies in the media keep reminding us of that.

          ... 1992 is squarely in the Clinton years and everything bad that happened during it is 100% his fault.

          If they approved, implemented, or reimplemented a policy they own it. Remember this part of the summary?

          The operation had 'been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority,' including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.

          Do you have a reason why they aren't responsible?

          • by GlennC ( 96879 )

            Now, now, ladies...there's no need for argument here.

            BOTH of your boys support NSA wiretapping and espionage.

      • Clinton took office in January of 1993

        This is yet another started by an R, continued by a D.

        Could you remind me again what party affiliation the two officials mentioned in the summary had?

        The operation had 'been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority,' including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.

        There is an old rule in stores: you break it, you bought it.

        In politics: you implment it, you own it.

        The policy was owned by the Clinton administration when they approved it and either continued or reimplemented it.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          If you can tell me what party was in office in 1992. Like I said, started by an R, continued by a D. I can take a wild guess which part you find embarrassing.

          • Like I said, you break it you bought it. I can take a wild guess which part your find embarassing.

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              So what does that say about the stories you had queued up for started by a D continued by an R?

              Stop hitting yourself!

              • That says the "D"s owned their policy, and the "R"s owned theirs.

                The difference is that I'm honest enough to say that.

                So your view is that honesty is a form of self abuse? Figures.

                • by sjames ( 1099 )

                  My view is that both R and D have an entire ossuary in their closets. The Rs tend to instigate and the D's win the life time achievement award for rubber spine. You seemed anxious to blame only the Ds for the actions of Bush Jr. and Sr. rather than admit that the blame is shared with the Rs as instigators.

                  Your attempts to disown your own foolish comment only makes you look worse.

                  • Rs own the policies they enact or retain just as Ds own the policies they enact or retain. I assign responsibility on that basis. What gets amusing is the continual attempts at blame shifting by Ds for the policies they enact or retain. It is never the Ds fault that they have the policies they have, is it?. You only credit them with having a "rubber spine" instead of acknowledging their responsibility for their action or inaction. Do you truly believe that the administrations of FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ,

          • One other thing ... would you like me to start digging up the "started by a D continued by an R" programs? I can take a wild guess about your reaction to that too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Other than Clinton was elected in 1992 and took office in 1993.

      Not a fan of Clinton at all, but we should at least be honest. Of course you could blame him for letting it continue for 8 years.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Most presidents KNOW the start of a program since they have to approve it.
        However, once it is going, future presidents rarely know about things unless they undergo serious modification, such as what W did to Poppa Bush's work.
  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @10:02PM (#49435165)

    On first glance, with some help from a greasy bridge, I thought it read "1922". Then, after a forefinger restoration, I was actually disappointed to see how small this story really was.

  • And probably even earlier. But, one thing that everyone seems to be ignoring is that AT&T, and I am sure many others, kept all its call records. It treats the data as an asset.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

      A *looooonger* time than what you think. That was when congress 'found out'. But the fact is they already knew for a long time.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The US can go back to Project MINARET http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
      Project SHAMROCK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
      The US like the UK has always had an interest in all communications internally and beyond the USA, UK.
      The good news is this is now in the open and generations of crypto experts can finally understand the collaboration between mil/gov and the big telcos.
  • by sharkbiter ( 266775 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @10:33PM (#49435301)

    http://www.engineeringradio.us/blog/2009/07/cold-war-relic-att-long-lines-microwave-site-kingston-ny/

    There were a series of Receive Only (RO) towers constructed across the US when Western Electric (AT&T nowadays) had Line Of Site microwave transmissions across the US. Prior to that, there was the transference of tape recordings from them to the various spy agencies.

    They've always been listening. It's only now that it's a big deal. That and your junk is in danger of being laughed at...

    Google "Puzzle Palace" and see what comes up.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, I get the Snowden makes an attractive and easy media story, but anybody who was paying attention knew this was happening. Why it has been going on for two years and gotten stale means that most people don't care. It was a losing battle to begin with anyways. And it just is the paranoid conspiracy theorists and media who have to write negative articles about politicians who are worried about the potential for wrongdoing. I still haven't seen much evidence of real wrong doing in the revelations outsi

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They've always been listening. It's only now that it's a big deal.

      The difference is the scale and the automated collection and analysis capabilities. It gives you unprecedented options for Selective Enforcement of laws that are pretty much invisible to both citizens and (as it turns out) judges.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    These days, the NSA collects your entire online life. You are a fucking idiot if you don't realize this by now.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2015 @11:21PM (#49435499)

    Look what he's done now! ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    While we're confessing, how long have they been faking evidence to cover up secret (and likely illegal) surveillance in parallel construction cases?

    If the surveillance goes back earlier then the parallel construction does too.

  • I strongly suspect that if we want to investigate anything in order to help protect our nation we should not be so worried about the terror loonies but instead focus on what goes on in businesses. In order for our nation to survive we need to have a degree of trust in our corporations.. As it stands corporations do not deserve one bit of trust from the public. Whether it is the under handed efforts to hold back the Tesla cars or the outrageous salaries payed to executives or off shoring for tax pu
  • That Republicans hate so so much that they can't be bothered to vote for his replacement and get him out of office? Gotcha.

  • They were bulk collecting telegraphs at the time.

    There was a great talk on 31C3 (Chaos Communication Congress), the largest hacker conference in Europe. Tell no-one A century of secret deals between the NSA an the telecom industry [media.ccc.de]

    The talk can be found on youtube as well.

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