NSA Program Monitors An Entire Country’s Calls, Has Wizard Mascot

Here is your weekly dose of NSA revelations, reported in the _Washington Post _from the classified documents cache released by Edward Snowden: the NSA has a program called MYSTIC that can monitor an entire country’s telephone calls–100 percent of them–and replay them up to a month later. It’s actually in use in a country right now, although it can’t be said which one.

The program’s tool, RETRO, for “retrospective retrieval,” stores a bank of phone conversations; every 30 days, it clears out the oldest conversations to make way for new ones. The documents reveal the program is in use somewhere, but at the bequest of the NSA, the Post _is withholding the country’s identity for security reasons. The NSA documents outlined plans to add the operation in six other countries, also redacted by the _Post. (Safe to assume there aren’t too many countries out there who’d be happy about being part of this.) Only a small percentage of the calls are ever accessed, but there are apparently few limitations on the program: any calls from Americans caught in the foreign country’s dragnet are also subject to collection.

Now, here is the bizarre twist: the documents include this image of a wizard with a cell phone mounted on the end of his staff. Twitter detective work by Steve Tsuida finds that the MYSTIC image is in fact a painting stolen in 1995 from fantasy artist Don Maitz, who is also famous for creating the image of rum pirate Captain Morgan. (Update: Janny Wurts, a fantasy novelist and illustrator married to Maitz, confirmed on Twitter that the image was used without permission.)

Washington Post