back to article NSA: That ginormous effort to slurp up Americans' phone records that Snowden exposed? Ehhh, we don't need that no more

The NSA's mass-logging of people's phone calls and text messages, at home and abroad – a surveillance program introduced after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks – is set to end as it's no longer worth the hassle. The blanket spying, which hoovered up the metadata for all calls and texts made by US citizens as well as …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Magic 8-ball says....

    The NSA has a new program just as invasivel, but not yet leaked to Joe Public. No doubt the new program is declared legal under the NSA's latest round of classified legal opinions, twisting whatever privacy-related safeguards are in current law to allow their new snooping.

    1. Tom 64
      Windows

      Re: Magic 8-ball says....

      This is simply a case of building plausible deinability. 'look we gave up that program you all hated'.

      Pull the other one pal.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Magic 8-ball says....

      Nah... they'll just let it sit at the request of the White House and claim they're not slurping everyone's data, just the "bad guys". Bad guys including democrats, folks who are no longer following certain people on Twitter, anyone working in the White House, and maybe all the news networks including Fox since they've been giving the administration crap lately.

      Icon: Well... I think I'm trolling certain commentards. But then again, truth is stranger than fiction so who knows what will happen or who will have their data, etc. slurped?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Magic 8-ball says....

        That icon you used.... I see what you did there!

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    4. GnuTzu Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Magic 8-ball says....

      That was my first thought. Looking at industry trends, they're certainly going to be employing Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, not to mention other dark forces. Can you say "Skynet", "Wintermute", and "Elon Musk"?

      1. Ian Michael Gumby
        Boffin

        @Gni Tzu Re: Magic 8-ball says....

        Bzzzt!

        Crossing Sci-Fi storylines.

        Can't do that.

        Seriously you know you're bad when a guy like me who was an engineering student (read math science geek) who has to criticize your literature references. Ok, so the only A that I got in English was for an intro-to-scify class where I had to borrow paper so I could take the final and finished in 45 mins because I ran out of paper. (He gave me an A- because of that.)

        Bonus points... what was the name of the war in the Gibson's novels where some of the characters got messed up in the head?

    5. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Magic 8-ball says....

      The Not American worldwide snooping centre in Saudi Arabia, will continue to be the not American worldwide snooping centre, and therefore not answerable to the taxpayers of America who have funded it since WWW was a spotty teenager.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Marketing Hack Re: Magic 8-ball says....

      Maybe....

      Or they could have done what Obama wanted... the Telcos own the data and then give access to the NSA as needed. Logistically there are tools that they could use to pull the data as needed then doing more analytics on the minimized result set. Its more difficult, but not impossible considering that this isn't real time analytics.

      Personally, I'd rather have the metadata.There can be some very cool things that you can do with it.

      Not to mention use it for non-NSA things like cracking down in SIP use in telco scams.

  2. _SMB_

    yeah na

    'THIS program isn't worth the effort, we might abandon it'

    Doesn't fill me with the confidence that some less skeptical members of the public seem to have.

  3. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Do people even phone each other anymore?

    Maybe hoovering up chat and emails is more useful these days.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Do people even phone each other anymore?

      They gave Zuckerberg an ultimatum.. Supply us with the Encrpytion keys to Whatsapp etc or we shoot you...

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Do people even phone each other anymore?

        They gave Zuckerberg an ultimatum.. Supply us with the Encrpytion keys to Whatsapp etc or we shoot you...

        They did it wrong. It should've been "supply us with the keys before we shoot you".

        And then, once they have the keys....

      2. Cliff Thorburn

        Re: Do people even phone each other anymore?

        Ironically Zuckerberg as well as being a Data Source also actually resembles Data from Star Trek the Next Generation, although its disputable which possesses more personality.

        The truth really is stranger than fiction one can certainly vouch for that.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Do people even phone each other anymore?

      Lots of people still make plenty of phone calls. But the "persons of interest" don't usually do so when communicating something "of interest".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Rat Fox ... Re: Do people even phone each other anymore?

      Email is a different program. They already have that covered.

      SMS and Voice are the interesting ones. And Voice is the harder one to tap. (Tap as in eavesdrop, spy, etc ...)

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "It might just work"

    Oh it sure will. The NSA is counting on apathy and forgetfulness, two powerful elements in its favor. It will do its song and dance, take a bow for being nice, and by the next Superbowl everyone but us nerds will have forgotten all about it - including the media.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure

    They lied about the existence of the programme and lied about details of it, even to congress, after Snowden leaked the info.

    The so called conspiracy nutters knew for years that this sort of programme existed all along. They wernt called nutters after the leaks. I wonder how many said "I told you so"?

    I remember people I worked with laughing at me when I started telling them about DRM and how bad it was and that it was coming, that they would suffer for it. I held back the "I told you so" when they started crying to me a few years later about how their CD dont work and how they cant lend their sister a track or two. They wernt laughing anymore, while I went back to listening to all the OGG vorbis files I had amassed on my player that knew nothing of DRM. They asked me for help and I was basically thinking "sorry, I dont do mp3's. I moved on from where you are stuck years ago. I dont have an ipod, avoided that, and I never played a Sony rootkit enabled CD in my PC because I knew I shouldnt."

    So I'm taking a page out of the book I used to read when I was young, the book that made me suspicious of groups like the NSA and of the existence of the programmes. I was called a conspiracy nutter and had to put up with people assuming I believed not just in aliens (well I think that anyone who thinks we are the only life in our own galaxy are totally mental) but that they were visiting us and controlling our brains :D

    So to all those who before Snowden revealed it all: I told you so.

    And to the same people, who will still think that the NSA are staffed by angelic beings that would never lift a finger to do anything bad , evan after they did: I dont believe them. They have a replacement or are simply trying to get us to lower our guard by pretending to not run that programme anymore. Why, would I believe anything they say about this subject?

    I bet those people I wrote that to are immaturely doing impressions of me wearing a tin foil hat and shouting at the skies to ward of the alien invasion forces.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Sure

      I too assume that badness is happening unless there is proof to change my mind, I act as you act, avoiding the worst. I just don't tell anyone my thoughts. I have a serene smile before and after they hit their wall.

    2. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Sure

      When the IRA said it was going to give up violence, it decommissioned its weapons.

      When I see NSA kit being sold by the ton on Ebay, I just might believe they were telling the truth.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Sure

        When I see NSA kit being sold by the ton on Ebay, I just might believe they were telling the truth.

        In that case I just believe they are selling back doored stuff in the hope they may catch something and partly funding the replacement in one go.

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Sure

      Snowden didn't expose anything that wasn't already well known public information. He simply released some of what was being grabbed.

      A good analogy is that everyone knows confidential medical records exist, and seeing someone's confidential file doesn't tell us anything we didn't know except their personal details.

      Echelon has been known to the public for over 50 years. Snowden's claim to be a whistle blower was pretty flimsy even before he basically admitted he was working for Russia all along.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Sure

        Do you care to document? I remember Echelon-discussions 20 years ago or so, and there were a lot of qualified guesses and fewer hard facts.

  6. Hardrada

    "An attack of conscience or have the super-snoops got something better now?"

    That thought crossed my mind immediately when I last re-entered the US. There were no agents digging through my bags and asking my where I'd been, and the only explanation I could think of was that they already know where I've been. Maybe Visa has been tattling on me, and the feds now know that I'm totally boring.

    It's kind of a shame, because there used to be so many fun conversations:

    Agent: "What did you do in Medellin?"

    Traveler: "You mean who."

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Alternatively...

      Agent: "Ok then Mr Sicario... so who DID you do in Medellin?"

      Traveler: "Shakira. Multiple times. In the sauna."

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Alternatively...

        In the sauna? Are you mad?!?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively...

          Are you mad?!?

          That question was already answered when he said "Shakira".

      2. Roj Blake

        Re: Alternatively...

        Sauna? I've never heard it called that before.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively...

          Sauna? I've never heard it called that before.

          Oh I don't know - hot and moist has some resonance.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see a slight of hand trick ....

    Making you focus on the "We don't need it anymore", whilst they slyly slip something new into place...

    I'm tempted to open a petition for official renaming of NSA and GCHQ To BOLB-USA and BOLB-UK... Bureau of Lying Bar-stewards

  8. david1024

    Robocallers!

    Finally, all those robocalls have had a positive impact!

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Spies, spy

    When they are not spying they sow dissent, agitate, fabricate truths, misdirect and obfuscate their true intent.

    What they don't do, is tell the truth, unless telling the truth is helping to carry out one of the above.

    1. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: Spies, spy

      @Chris G.

      Are you implying that the NSA has taken a majority holding of three or more American Media organizations?

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Spies, spy

        A majority holding is less necessary than the holding of the short and curlies of the requisite persons who can disseminate information relevant to their required outcome.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Spies, spy

      You're talking about Snowden, right?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    No need.

    Everyone puts everything on social media anyway nowadays. Who actually makes phone calls apart from crusties like us? And those calls are generally explaining that a train's late of cancelled.

    For the odd byte or two not on social media, Intel and AMD have helpfully built in some useful CPU backdoors, some deliberate, some perhaps less so.

  11. DerekCurrie
    Devil

    Fascinating Timing...

    ... Just when every service, commercial or non-profit, is inexplicably asking or demanding user phone numbers. Hand offs?

    My solution: If some service or other is demanding your phone number, don’t give it. Give THEIR phone number. Let them go onto the snoop lists and RoboCall lists. Never give away your phone number except to friends and highly-trusted services (IOW not FacePlantBook or Gaggle). Period.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Fascinating Timing...

      If some service or other is demanding your phone number, don’t give it. Give THEIR phone number.

      I've been doing the same. First iteration I'll try a "n/a" in the phone field. If they insist, I'll give them their number.

      Unless I really trust them and want them to phone me back. But I prefer to use email which can be dealt with at my leisure, so I don't give anyone my phone number.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's just bullshit all the way down.

    The NSA has come up with so many innovative ways to lie about what it does that it's impossible to learn anything from what they say publicly or the overwhelming majority of what they say privately. Here is some pretty interesting perspective from an American congressperson:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2013/10/09/obama-says-nsa-has-plenty-of-congressional-oversight-but-one-congressman-says-its-a-farce/

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: It's just bullshit all the way down.

      Interesting article. What I want to know is do they have a moonbase, a talking bear and a cyborg army? These questions are raised by the Congressman - but never answered. Why only one talking bear? Was it made in Russia?

      1. el_oscuro
        Black Helicopters

        Re: It's just bullshit all the way down.

        That's been known for 20 years, though the scientists that originally reported were found dead in separate accidents.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFmW6e-N288

        1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: It's just bullshit all the way down.

          Why, oh why do people always show Apollo LMs with the ascent stage still attached? It's this kind of slipshod image that ruined the Sharknado films for me.

  13. GrapeBunch
    Facepalm

    J. Edgaring, not what it was cracked up to be

    Maybe the NSA fears other TLAs gearing up somehow to be able to subpoena their records. Ha ha. Once they've denied 100% coverage, they'll be able to respond to every request with a "no, sorry, we don't have that record."

    No, I agree with what everybody has been hinting at. They'll still be hoovering up petabytes, they'll just be slightly, ever so slightly, selective.

  14. Kev99

    Reading the history of the patriot act shows more hysteria and ill thought out propositions than happened after Pearl Harbor.

  15. NonSSL-Login
    Trollface

    The real NSA mantra is to collect as much as data as possible all the time, so this does not fit in to that.

    They would never give up a data source unless it was completely useless and they have argued for years that this type of collection was 100% needed.

    Think that goes to show whatever the NSA say, you can't trust their word.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Just like Facebook then?

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Lips moving

    Need I say more?

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

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