NSA can record and search through a whole country’s voice calls, but how remains a mystery


The NSA devised a system called RETRO that can search through all voice calls in a country over the preceding month, according to the latest revelation to come out of the Snowden leaks.

On Tuesday the Washington Post provided a rather light description of RETRO’s capabilities, avoiding any identifying reference to the country that was first targeted – and the 6 others that were apparently on the NSA’s to-do list – at the request of U.S. officials.

RETRO apparently began operations in 2009 and hit full capacity in the first target nation in 2011. It’s part of a program called MYSTIC (see logo above) and in the case of the initial target it works alongside a collection scheme called SCALAWAG, which somehow records all calls in the country. These calls are archived for 30 days, during which time they can be retroactively searched. So if a target is identified at…

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