New analysis of documents leaked by former NSA spy Edward Snowden sheds light on sophisticated software used by the agency to turn phone call speech into text.
The documents show that “the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored,” said a Monday report by online news publication Intercept.
They also recount the development of some speech recognition software the spies called “Google for Voice” nearly a decade ago.
In 2004, the NSA launched a program code-named RHINEHART, which could “support both real-time searches, in which incoming data is automatically searched by a designated set of dictionaries and retrospective searches, in which analysts can repeatedly search over months of past traffic.”
Google for Voice, which could “index and tag 1 million cuts per day” was launched two years later.
A program called Enhanced Video Text and Audio Processing (EViTAP) was used by 2008 that offered a “fully-automated” service to the staff.
EViTAP conducted a real-time monitoring of news broadcasts in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, English, and Persian.
According to the Intercept, “The USA Freedom Act — the surveillance reform bill that Congress is currently debating — doesn’t address the topic at all. The bill would end an NSA program that does not collect voice content: the government’s bulk collection of domestic calling data, showing who called who and for how long.”
Snowden began leaking classified intelligence documents in June 2013, revealing the extent of the NSA’s spying activities.
He revealed that the spy agency has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders around the world.
Snowden fled his country to avoid espionage charges. In August 2013, Russia granted him asylum for one year.
Many regard Snowden as a whistleblower and a national hero for blowing the lid off the US government’s global surveillance operations.
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