Good News: The NSA Can Hear You Only 30 Percent of the Time
All right, not exactly. After all the good snoops over at the National Intelligence Agency say that they don't actually listen in on your conversations; they merely monitor with whom you talk, for how long you talk, and from where you talk. All to keep the bogeyman, uh, bad terrorists away.
Today's Washington Post reports that the NSA can only actually collect information on about 30 percent of all of our telephone calls:
The National Security Agency is collecting less than 30 percent of all Americans' call records because of an inability to keep pace with the explosion in cellphone use, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The disclosure contradicts popular perceptions that the government is sweeping up virtually all domestic phone data. It is also likely to raise questions about the efficacy of a program that is premised on its breadth and depth, on collecting as close to a complete universe of data as possible in order to make sure that clues aren't missed in counterterrorism investigations.
In 2006, the officials said, the NSA was collecting nearly all records about Americans' phone calls from a number of U.S. companies under a then-classified program, but as of last summer that share had plummeted to less than 30 percent.
But don't worry that you're being ignored; the NSA is diligently seeking permission from its pet Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ramp up its programs so that it can collect up and store all the records of your phone calls.
With regard to keeping terrorists away, keep in mind that last month a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board appointed by President Obama stated:
We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.
The same board warned:
Permitting the government to routinely collect the calling records of the entire nation fundamentally shifts the balance of power between the state and its citizens…while the danger of abuse may seem remote, given historical abuse of personal information by the government during the twentieth century, the risk is more than merely theoretical.