NSA admits employees spied on loved ones

The NSA, however, claims this was limited to 12 instances since 2003

Employees of the U.S. National Security Agency spied on "unfaithful" husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends using surveillance technology of the agency, according to a letter from the NSA to a U.S. Senator.

The letter from NSA Inspector General George Ellard, released Thursday by Senator Charles E. Grassley, cites 12 "substantiated instances" of the intentional misuse of the signals intelligence (SIGINT) powers of the NSA.

The misuse of NSA authorities for romantic purposes, popularly known as Loveint, was cited in various media reports as an instance of widespread compromise of people's privacy by the NSA. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that NSA officers had used the agency's "enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests." But General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, on Thursday described the "claimed evidence of thousands of privacy violations" as false and misleading.

"According to NSA's independent inspector general, there have been only 12 substantiated cases of willful violation over 10 years -- essentially one per year," Alexander told a hearing on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Authorities of the U. S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Several of these cases were referred to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution, appropriate discipline action in other cases. We hold ourselves accountable very day."

Among the cases cited in the NSA letter to Grassley is one of an employee who spied from about 1998 to 2003 nine telephone numbers of female foreign nationals without a "valid foreign intelligence purpose," and listened to collected phone conversations while assigned to foreign locations. The employee also collected the communications of a U.S. person on two occasions.

In another instance in 2004, an employee of the NSA tried "out of curiosity" a query of his home phone number and the phone number of his girlfriend, a foreign national. Although he was blocked by the system from collecting information on his phone as it was made on a U.S. person, he managed to retrieve metadata of his girlfriend's calls.

The NSA is under scrutiny after former contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the agency was collecting records in bulk of Verizon phone customers and also had real-time access to the servers of Internet companies, a charge the companies have denied. Such dragnet surveillance is likely to lead to misuse of privacy, privacy groups have argued.

Grassley wrote in August to Ellard for details about intentional and wilful abuse of NSA surveillance powers.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentprivacyNational Security Agency

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?