The National Security Agency routinely listened in on the intimate and innocent phone calls of Americans in Iraq, including government personnel, journalists and aid workers, as they called back into the United States, according to two former NSA operators who spoke to ABC News.
The accusations that the NSA routinely listened in on Americans’ phone calls contradicts the Administration’s repeated claims that its secret spying did not listen to any Americans other than suspected terrorists.
The conduct also appears to violate the rules that govern when the NSA can listen in to Americans’ making calls overseas — which then required high-level approval for each target.
The two operators, who ABC News say do not know one other, came forward after speaking with the foremost chronicler of the NSA, James Bamford, whose new book the Shadow Factory comes out on Tuesday.
ABC News reports:
“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.
Kinne described the contents of the calls as “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”
Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad’s Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.
“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News.
It’s not clear whether the allegations refer to the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program that the Administration admitted to running after the New York Times revealed its existence in December 2005. The government describes that program as listening into phone calls where one end is outside the United States and where one party is suspected of being a terrorist. That program likely intercepted phone calls with help from American telecom companies.
The program described by the operators in the ABC News story likely collected the intelligence outside the United States.
Kinne’s allegations are not new — she’s been making them public for sometime as part of her involvement in the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Adrienne Kinne IVAW – US spied on Americans “just in case”
If the allegations are true, they show that when the government secretly tossed aside the decades-old credo that the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans, it did not simply make one or two exceptions — it shredded the it.
ABC News says the head of the Senate Intelligence committee Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) is disturbed by the news and pledges to look into it.
However, it fails to note that Rockefeller was the key lawmaker in this summer’s legislation that largely legalized the government’s formerly secret warrantless wiretap program and gave immunity to the companies that helped.
Source / Wired