NEWS ANALYSIS: The latest report claims the NSA can monitor all phone conversations from a foreign country. With each report, one wonders how many more there are.
In June 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the world by disclosing the U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA) PRISM program that arbitrarily collects phone metadata from Americans.
Since then, the former NSA contractor has been on the run and is currently hidden somewhere in Russia, though his disclosures about U.S. surveillance activities continue to come out. Week after week, new revelations from the Snowden documents detail the NSA's capabilities and tactics.
The latest disclosures came March 18 in a Washington Post report
about a voice-interception program called Mystic. Mystic is able to siphon all of the telephone calls from a target country and stores them for 30 days. NSA analysts are able to replay calls and take voice clippings of interesting bits for further investigation and longer-term storage.
Although the NSA has not issued a publicly posted comment about the latest disclosure, a statement
the agency issued in October 2013 is still likely relevant in this case.
"What NSA does is collect the communications of targets of foreign intelligence value, irrespective of the provider that carries them," the NSA stated in October.
For the NSA to intercept all the communications for an entire country would seem to indicate that entire countries are hotbeds of terrorist activity and, as such, they deserve extreme scrutiny. The Washington Post
report indicated that there are now six countries where the Mystic program is likely deployed. The report does not identify which nations the NSA has used the Mystic technology against.
The Mystic program revelations come barely a week after the last major Snowden disclosures became public. Last week, The Intercept reported
on the NSAs efforts to inject malware into targets and alleged that the NSA masquerades as Facebook to infect targets. The report brought a swift rebuke from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"The U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat," Zuckerberg wrote.
For its part, the NSA, denied the accusation that it impersonates any U.S. company's Websites.
After each new Snowden revelation is disclosed, I have wondered how many more are left. How many more unimaginable things will the whistleblower and his trove of classified documents reveal?
It's a question Snowden himself has now (partially) answered. In a March 18 session at the TED Vancouver
event, whistleblower participated via a remote Web link. The TED conference has posted a full video
of the conversation as well. Snowden also participated
via a Web link March 10 at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.
"There are absolutely more revelations to come," Snowden said at the TED Vancouver event. "Some of the most important reporting is yet to come."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at
InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist