NSA Surveillance: Having a Laugh at the Expense of Your Privacy

NSA3.jpgABC News reports about a new scandal arising out of the NSA Surveillance Program:

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

According to one of the intercept operators, “US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and “collected on” as they called their offices or homes in the United States.” Another intercept operator independently confirmed what the first one had reported.

Not only did they listen in on private conversations, with no connection to terrorism, but they also shared calls that they deemed interesting or funny:

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall’s “smoke pit,” but ended up feeling badly about his actions. . . .

In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted.

“It’s not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it,” Gen. Hayden testified.

More from the ABC story here.

I’m not surprised by this story. It is a common problem with government surveillance to reach beyond its limits, and for surveillance officials to disseminate information they find humorous or entertaining. For example, it has happened with CCTV in the UK. Hopefully, next year’s Congress will do a thorough investigation.

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