Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The National Security Agency (NSA) has a program that continuously records an entire country’s phone calls, according to a report Tuesday of The Washington Post.
The report citing unnamed officials privy to the surveillance program and documents leaked by the agency’s whistleblower Edward Snowden named the voice interception program as MYSTIC. The newspaper did not identify the countries whose phone calls were being monitored and other targeted nations on the request of U.S. officials who raised national security concerns if it is revealed.
The MYSTIC was started in 2009 and uses the tool called RETRO to store the calls for 30 days, the report said. After that period, new calls are automatically stored overlapping and replacing the oldest recorded calls. NSA analysts listen to about one percent of the billions of calls recorded picking millions of clips or cuts for longer-term storage. Phone calls of Americans in countries monitored by the RETRO are also collected, according to present and former U.S. officials who requested not to be named.
Commenting on the program, Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, issued a statement saying the U.S. “must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.”
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, warned in an e-mailed statement that reporting the agency’s monitoring techniques and tools used for legitimate foreign intelligence activities jeopardizes the U.S. mission of protecting those it swore to protect.