The hits to our privacy keep coming as news that NSA employees improperly spied on partners and spouses was disclosed in a letter from NSA inspector general Dr. George Ellard. So, it looks like members of the NSA are no better than us when it comes to spying on the people in their lives, but instead of scrolling through an accidentally left-open Facebook inbox or checking a text over someone’s shoulder, they use spy equipment.
The letter was in response to an inquiry by Sen. Charles Grassley, which “was prompted by media reports that NSA employees at times have been caught in what is informally known as “loveint” – collecting intelligence on love interests.” “Loveint” is a hilarious name for “creeping.”
The letter revealed numerous incidences of using NSA resources to spy on lovers instead of just watching us or finding terrorists or whatever they do. Here’s a sampling of what our brave creepers were up to:
- For five years, an NSA employee ‘snooped on the phone calls of nine female foreign nationals “without a valid foreign intelligence purposes.’”
- In 2011, an “NSA employee admitted it was ‘her practice’ to eavesdrop on foreign phone numbers ‘she obtained in social settings.’”
- One NSA employee tried and failed to eavesdrop on his girlfriend (done apparently “out of curiosity,” but was able to access “records of time, date and duration of the girlfriend’s phone calls,” which is useless for spying.
In these three cases and the other enumerated in the letter, it would appear that no clear action was taken and the eavesdroppers have yet to face any punishment.
So how bad is this? Well, aside from it being a clear abuse of privacy, it’s pretty unnerving that the freaking National Security Agency is made up of middle schoolers who are all cheating on each other. NSA Director General Keith Alexander says it’s not as dismal as we’ve been lead to believe, however:
“The press claims evidence of thousands of privacy violations. This is false and misleading. According to NSA’s independent Inspector General there have been only 12 substantiated cases of willful violations over 10 years, essentially one per year.”
Okay, General, when you put it that like it doesn’t sound so crazy. Things go wrong once a year, I’ll bite. But it’s still pretty unsettling that even once a year, an NSA employee is like “Hey I think my husband might be texting his coworker Wendy. Let me use my NSA technology to eavesdrop on him. Protecting America can wait.” Bottom line. If you’re dating an NSA employee and you hear labored breathing on the phone line while making an appointment with your tennis instructor, your boyfriend probably took a break from work to listen in.