NSA Isn't Nearly as Good at Phone Data as We Thought
'Washington Post' says it can collect maybe 30% of records on US calls
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2014 11:54 AM CST
The NSA campus in Fort Meade, Md.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know that the NSA vacuums up data on virtually all US phone calls, right? Turns out, it's not even close, according to the Washington Post. While the NSA would love to have that capability—and is trying to figure out how to get there—it currently can collect data on less than 30% of American calls. The reason? It hasn't been able to keep up with the massive shift from landlines to cell phones.

As recently as 2006, the agency collected nearly 100% of phone data, according to the Post. But that's when the march toward cell phones began in earnest. The NSA's bulk-collection program, for instance, doesn't cover two major wireless carriers, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, though the agency is reportedly preparing court orders to remedy that. In the meantime, it also would need to vastly improve its database to handle the new records. (Meanwhile, President Obama doesn't want the data in the government hands and has ordered the agency to examine alternatives.)