NSA (Loveint Scandal) Channels Agency’s Enormous Eavesdropping Power To Spy On Love Interests (#NSAlovepoems, #NSAromcom)
National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said.
The story created a stir on Twitter, with two related hashtags gaining traction. First, #NSAlovepoems, and also #NSAromcom.
The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.
Spy agencies often refer to their various types of intelligence collection with the suffix of “INT,” such as “SIGINT” for collecting signals intelligence, or communications; and “HUMINT” for human intelligence, or spying.
The “LOVEINT” examples constitute most episodes of willful misconduct by NSA employees, officials said.
In the wake of revelations last week that NSA had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions in a one-year period, NSA Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong emphasized in a conference call with reporters last week that those errors were unintentional. He did say that there have been “a couple” of willful violations in the past decade. He said he didn’t have the exact figures at the moment.
NSA said in a statement Friday that there have been “very rare” instances of willful violations of any kind in the past decade, and none have violated key surveillance laws. “NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities” and responds “as appropriate.”
The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination.
Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years, where NSA personnel have violated NSA procedures.
She said “in most instances” the violations didn’t involve an American’s personal information. She added that she’s seen no evidence that any of the violations involved the use of NSA’s domestic surveillance infrastructure, which is governed by a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Clearly, any case of noncompliance is unacceptable, but these small numbers of cases do not change my view that NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” she said. “When errors are identified, they are reported and corrected.”
“It is alarming to know that the possibility of employees engaging in such behavior turns out to be very real,” said Sen. Charles Grassely (R., Iowa), who asked the NSA’s inspector general for a public accounting, which he made public last week (PDF).
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) was similarly dismayed: “I was deeply disappointed, and hurt really, to see some had looked at their girlfriend’s messages.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) wanted to know what NSA was doing to catch and prevent electronic stalking.
Transparency, Gen. Alexander reported. “Highlighting the punishments that go along with this really will help cut that down,” he said, noting that he had circulated to employees the same information that the inspector general had provided to Mr. Grassley. There was no word on whether he plans to provide public accountings in the future.
In nearly a dozen incidents over the last decade that take the term “cyber-stalking” to a whole new level, NSA employees broke NSA rules to enter phone numbers or email addresses associated with their romantic interests, in one case an ex, into vast databases to see to whom they were talking, according to the agency’s Inspector General.
READ: The NSA’s Rules for Accidentally Spying on You
The incidents, 12 in total and most romantic in nature, were revealed in response to a request from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who asked last month that the NSA provide more information on “the intentional and willful misuse of surveillance authorities by NSA employees.”
For months major news organizations have reported never-before-seen details of the NSA’s incredible surveillance powers — both foreign and domestic – based on a trove of intelligence documents allegedly stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden, charged with espionage-related crimes in the U.S., is currently living in Russia on temporary asylum.
In one 2004 case revealed by the NSA IG, a female NSA employee investigated a foreign telephone number she had discovered in her husband’s cell phone contacts because she suspected him of being unfaithful. In another in 2005, on the first day he was granted access to the relevant NSA databases, a male “subject” searched six different e-mail addresses belonging to his ex-girlfriend. He testified that he was just doing it to try out the system, the NSA IG said. In other cases, the employees in question said they had queried unauthorized numbers out of their own security concerns. Another employee said he tracked his own home number and his girlfriend’s number “out of curiosity.”
The IG, George Ellard, said his office currently has two investigations underway into the purported misuse of the NSA’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities and are looking into another allegation “for possible investigation.”
…If it proves so, then loving leaks through phones; Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with drones. #NSALovePoems
Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth loop; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt, we snoop #NSAlovepoems
Roses are red, Your underwear is blue. Not that I looked, But I could if I wanted to. #NSAlovepoems
My surveillance is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. #NSAlovepoems
Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, Lady, were no crime But at my back I always hear My supervisor hurrying near #NSAlovepoems
"The roses had the look of roses that are looked at, And stored, and cross-indexed, and subject to minimization" #NSAlovepoems
Roses are red, violets are blue, we've rooted your webcam, we are recording you. #nsaLOVEpoems
#NSAlovepoems Star light, Star bright First voicemail I hear tonight
hey now, so this is crazy i have your number no need to call me baby #NSAlovepoems #LOVEINT
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name should be entered into a database of known aliases. #NSAlovepoems
Roses are red, you are blue, coz your emails are all read, and your privacy is gone too #NSAlovepoems
Met her, date her, Not much later, She finds out what I meant 'bout keeping her content. #NSAlovepoems
Bridget Jones’s Diary, & her Facebook, plus her phone calls & all of her emails #NSAromcom
Look Who's Talking! #NSARomCom
I Know Exactly What You Did Last Summer #NSAromcom
Four Readings and a Numeral #NSAromcom
Four Weddings and An Imprisonment In Guantanamo #NSARomCom
When Harry Met Sally he tracked her through the web to make sure she was wife material first #NSAromcom
The Postman Always Opens Your Mail Twice #NSAromcom
We've got your mail #NSARomCom
He's Not That Into Your Email #NSAromcom
It Happened One Night and We Saw the Whole Thing #NSAromcom
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Mailing List Has Exposed Hundreds to Be Treated as Foreign Agents #NSAromcom
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