Last Friday, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) admitted that it was aware of willful violations of agency protocols on the part of its officers. According to the Wall Street Journal, “National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests.” The practice of using surveillance technology to acquire information relating to a relationship is known in intelligence as “LOVEINT.”
Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars hard at work. (Especially if you fancy sexting with your lovers!)
Siobhan Gorman writes, “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.”
The NSA reiterated that they have zero tolerance for willful violations of protocol and that they respond to such instances “as appropriate.” “As appropriate” was later defined as running the gamut from administrative action to termination, with no further clarification for the public’s peace of mind.
“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,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee.
An audit of the NSA from May of last year reported “2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” Because many of the instances of LOVEINT gathering are “self-reported” — only coming to light if an employee, say, fails a polygraph to renew clearance — there is no real way of knowing how widespread the practice is.
Now that I have succeeded in totally stressing you out, go check out #NSApickuplines on Twitter.
Header image by Terry Robinson.