The NSA is listening to your phone sex.

According to ABC interviews with various persons including two whistleblowers*, an author, and an assortment of offended people, the gummint (in the form of the National Security Agency) is abusing the emergency anti-terrorism powers granted by Congress to listen to Americans having phone sex with their spouses while in Iraq. The theory goes that NSA intercept operators are a bunch of pervs, listening to private conversations that have nothing to do with their anti-terror mission, and that they're so busy doing this that they are missing actual terror intercepts. Some poor, courageous service members tried to speak up about this, but were told to shut their pie holes because the orders had come down to transcribe everything.

It would be profoundly unwise for me to comment on this story in any substantive fashion. However, some other gentleman on (of all places!) Slashdot has thoughtfully done so for me:

Additionally, we have to keep the actions of the individual vs the actions of the agency in mind. What individual intercept operators at times did with their capabilities does not necessarily represent organizational support for such actions. Individual intercept operators have misbehaved in this way forever. Does that make it right? Does that mean the organization "condones" it? Of course not. Did UCLA Medical Center support individuals looking up the medical records of Britney Spears and other celebrities, just because they were technically able to do so, and worked under the guise of UCLA Medical Center? Of course not. But these employees also need continuing access to such resources to do their jobs.

I excerpted the paragraph addressing the point that particularly offended me, but the whole comment, by one Dave Schroeder, is worth a read. Subsequent followups, too.

"Whistleblowers" had an asterisk because I was also particularly offended by the two "former NSA agents" who were interviewed in the ABC video. Each admitted to engaging in the activity, and claiming that it was commonplace, and neither did much more than ask "Should we be doing this?" to their supervisor. For this, they are portrayed as rare, brave souls who are coming forward to shine the light of justice on the dens of iniquity from whence they came.

Bovine. Fecal. Matter.

All I'm going to say is that I have zero respect for anyone who comes forward with allegations like this after leaving. Zero.

Depressing is that because of political considerations, neither of these people will be prosecuted for violations of sworn oaths and regulations, the substance of which they were (AGAIN) debriefed on before they left the service. They made a promise and they did not keep it--actually, they failed twice. First, they swore to uphold the Constitution and (among other things) to do everything in their power to prevent just the sorts of abuses they are now claiming. And second, they promised to keep our nation's secrets to the grave. They failed when they were in uniform not doing their jobs properly, and they failed again when they gave away that which had been entrusted to them.

And yes, this will cost us in wasted time, political damage, and potentially in our ability to "know, find, and never lose the enemy." Thanks for nothing, losers.


[Update] Newsbusters points out that Adrienne Kinne, one of the brave souls, is on the board of directors for Iraq Veterans Against the War. This certainly doesn't make her allegations untrue, but at the very least it casts further light on her motivations. Similarly, Faulk (the overweight sailor whistleblower) has made other, frankly bizarre claims about his NSA service over at Is it unreasonable to expect the media, when reporting on a story potentially very damaging to the credibility of a national agency involved in the war on terror, to at least acknowledge the connection between sources of the story and prominent anti-war groups? Yes, that's a trick question. I know very well that we won't see such things. But that's what you have me for. Kudos to Newsbusters for pointing this out. I've been a little annoyed to not see much response to this story.