A US National Security Agency employee has abused the US government’s spying tools in order to intercept phone calls of nine foreign women.
According to internal files of the US spying agency, the NSA agent intercepted the calls from 1998 to 2003 and twice collected communications of an American without ever being noticed by his managers.
The illegal abuse of the NSA’s spying tools was disclosed after one of the foreign women, who is also a US government employee, became suspicious of the man and shared her suspicion with another government employee who later reported the case.
According to the NSA’s internal watchdog, at least 12 NSA agents have been using secret government surveillance tools to spy on the emails or phone calls of their spouses or lovers.
At the request of Charles Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, who asked for a report on abuses of the NSA’s surveillance authority, the NSA Office of the Inspector General disclosed the practice which is known as “LOVEINT”.
In another case, an NSA military member queried six email addresses of his former girlfriend on the very first day he attained access to the data collection system in 2005.
Following revelations by a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, which showed how the agency is collecting phone records and emails of both US nationals and foreigners, the spying agency came under harsh scrutiny and criticism.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the revelations made so far are just “the tip of the iceberg” of lax data safeguards.
“If you only focus on instances in which the NSA violated those laws, you’re missing the forest for the trees,” Jaffer said. “The bigger concern is not with willful violations of the law but rather with what the law itself allows.”
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