The National Security Agency has admitted that analysts have abused their authority to spy on love interests on several occasions.
In response to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the NSA identified 12 incidents since 2003 in which analysts intentionally misused their intelligence gathering powers.
In one case, an analyst spied on a foreign phone number she discovered in her husband’s cellphone, suspecting that he had cheated on her. She intercepted phone calls involving her husband, investigators discovered. The analyst resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken.
On one analyst’s first day of access to the NSA system, he pulled records on six email addresses belonging to his ex-girlfriend. He claimed he just wanted to test the system. The NSA demoted him and docked his pay for two months.
In another case, an analyst collected call data on his girlfriend and his own home phone number “out of curiosity.” He retired before the agency took any action.
Another analyst based in a foreign location collected phone records on her foreign national boyfriend and other foreign nationals, saying she wanted to be sure she wasn’t associating with “shady characters.” She resigned before the agency took disciplinary action.
An analyst who collected data on his wife lost access to the classified system, and another analyst who said he misused the system to help learn a foreign language also lost access to the database.
In the letter to Grassley, George Ellard, the NSA’s inspector general, said the agency currently has two open investigations and is reviewing a third for possible investigation.
The NSA has admitted that analysts have violated legal restrictions on thousands of occasions in recent years, but the agency says most of the violations are accidental.
“I appreciate the transparency that the Inspector General has provided to the American people,” Grassley, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “We shouldn’t tolerate even one instance of misuse of this program. Robust oversight of the program must be completed to ensure that both national security and the Constitution are protected.”
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Brendan Sasso is a reporter for The Hill.