Privacy Law

Spies' love interests have been snooped on for non-security reasons, NSA inspector general admits

In the past decade, there have been 12 proven instances of National Security Agency representatives intentionally misusing surveillance tools for personal reasons, the agency admitted this month.

The conduct involves snooping on girlfriends, husbands and first dates, Slate reports. NSA Inspector Gen. George Ellard released the information in a Sept. 11 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley.

Grassley had asked the agency for details on the matter when in August it acknowledged there had been a “couple” of violations.

The 12 individuals detailed are a mix of civilian employees and military members, the NSA letter states, all of whom willfully misused “signals intelligence” queries. Internally, the agency refers to the queries as “LOVEINT,” which stands for “Love Intelligence.”

One individual performed a query on his girlfriend’s phone number, and reviewed the metadata it returned. Another queried a foreign phone number she found in her husband’s cellphone, resulting in a voice collection of her husband. According to the NSA letter, she was motivated by suspicions her spouse was unfaithful.

Penalties for the actions included pay reductions for a limited time, a reduction in grade and revoking access to classified information, Slate reports. The piece notes that several violations were only revealed after employees disclosed their actions or failed lie detector tests.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.