According to separate reports appearing in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post today, the NSA did collect information on nearly all phone calls once upon a time, but that time was 2006.
Since 2006 the NSA has been unable to keep pace with the volume of communications and they now only collect metadata on approximately 25 percent or less of all calls.
In 2006, the officials said, the NSA was collecting nearly all records about Americans’ phone calls from a number of U.S. companies under a then-classified program, but as of last summer that share had plummeted to less than 30 percent. [...]
The actual percentage of records gathered is somewhere between 20 and 30 percent, and reflects Americans’ increasing turn away from the use of land lines to cellphones, as well as technical challenges in preparing the NSA database to handle large amounts of new records, the current and former officials said.
Moreover, one reason the NSA has been unable to keep pace is because they have had difficulty avoiding the collection of location data according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s illegal for the agency to collect location data.
The metadata the agency is authorized to collect consists of phones numbers and the duration of calls, not home addresses nor the content of conversations or personal information.
Like the myth that the NSA has “direct access” to the servers of social media giants, the idea that the NSA is collecting data on every phone call every day is also false.
There’s a sliver of truth here that critics will cling to — the fact that the agency did collect information on nearly all calls in 2006 — but that is hardly comparable to the bill of goods they’ve sold to the public and the media to date.
The agency is not collecting information on every phone call every day, amounting to some 5 billion records per day as some have suggested.
These contradictions could be avoided if documentation was made public rather than placed in the hands of a select few who get to decide what is and is not worth releasing. Some of those trusted with the timely release of information have their own agendas.