Back on May 5, we looked at some disturbing comments
made by former FBI counterterrorism agent Tom Clemente regarding the Boston bombing investigation. In essence, Clemente said that it would be possible to retrieve a stored phone conversation involving one of the bombers:
"...Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not."
Does this mean what it seems to mean -- that the NSA records and stores all of our telephone conversations? The comments here
give some insight into the matter, especially these words from someone calling himself "Dilbert"...
...I know Tim personally and I believe he knows exactly what he's talking about. He shared these same views with me roughly 10-12 years ago. This is likely an extension of the old Echelon program. I doubt they're storing audio; more likely using voice-recognition and dumping this all to text. Sure, they could be doing the old keyword flags but I doubt that (too much noise). I expect it's all dumped into massive databases for after-the-fact investigation.
For more on the capabilities, just do a search on "echelon semantic forests"
On the other hand, a comment from one "Alex" points out the technical barriers -- the need for high compression, the ability to store everything, and the simple fact that "speech to text sucks."
A certain BT adds:
It is in the National Security State's best interests to imply that it can do more than what it actually admits doing even if it can't really do what it wants to imply, and I wouldn't put it past certain TLA's to feed deliberate misinformation to a former employee in order to make sure it gets into the press.
You must come to your own conclusions about the credibility of this offering, from someone calling himself Stratego:
I don't know if the NSA is monitoring every phone call. I know how they work and find it difficult to believe that they are monitoring everything. It's the US Government after all. However, I certainly know for a FACT that they are illegally monitoring US person's calls, and dragging in loads of US citizen and US person data, public and private.
NSA has had tons of problems over the last few years simply with data center power. They can't get enough power from the local utilities, hence Bluffdale, UT and a temporary Austin, TX location.
How much would it cost to store all of the audio from all of those calls? Perhaps less than you think...
I'll assume that speech-to-text is not good enough, or that we want to keep the audio around for some other reason.
Assume the NSA is using something like Codec2 at 1400 bits/sec ( 175 bytes/sec). That's 10.25 KB/min/person.
Extrapolating this to the entire country (310 million people), we get about 3 terabytes per minute, or about one large hard drive.
Amazon S3 glacier storage is about $0.01/GB/month, so storing one month of recordings would round up to $31/month. At 500 minutes of talking for each person (average) per month, that gives us $15,500/month ($186,000/year) to record the entire country.
Wow. You'd expect the cost of such a project to be in the millions.