NSA listening to phone sex instead of terrorists? Update: What ABC left out of its report

posted at 8:35 am on October 9, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Americans inclined to have phone sex on international calls may have an unintended menage a trois instead.  ABC spoke to two former NSA operatives on the record about their work in the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and let’s just say that they weren’t completely focused on the task at hand.  Instead of the narrow surveillance promised by the Bush administration, the NSA in practice likes to keep themselves amused:

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

“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.”

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and “collected on” as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Another Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, worked at NSA from 2003 to late 2007, and told ABC essentially the same thing.  They saved conversations that amused them, often getting other operators to listen to phone sex, pillow talk, and other salacious tidbits. They also eavesdropped on journalists and aid workers, even after the NSA knew the numbers had nothing to do with terrorism.

They also intercepted critical information that saved lives in Iraq and elsewhere.  Faulk talked about discovering IEDs that got dismantled because of NSA intercepts, actions that saved the lives of American troops targeted by terrorists.  However, both Faulk and Kinne expressed frustration that the refusal of the NSA to winnow out numbers that clearly would produce no actionable intelligence made it harder for them to find the needles in the haystacks.  “By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it’s almost like they’re making the haystack bigger and it’s harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody,” Kinne told ABC.  “You’re actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security.”

Americans have trusted the NSA to act professionally in its pursuit of terrorists, and to use its limited resources wisely.  We have heard for the last seven years about the shortage of qualified Arab linguists in the American intelligence community.  If these two are telling the truth, it’s not only a breach of that necessary trust in defending Americans from the asymmetrical threat of terrorists, it’s a criminal misuse of that limited resource.

We need a strong and focused effort from the NSA to discover terrorist plots before they have a chance to reach fruition in their goals of killing Americans.  If these accounts can be independently corroborated, then current management doesn’t appear up to the task.

Update: One commenter says, “Ed, you make a good point, but wouldn’t you possibly be tempted to listen in on a few phone sex calls after listening to thousands of hours of boring garbage?”  In my former career in commercial security, other companies in our field made extensive use of microphones in both residential and commercial applications, which can help cut down false alarms.  They can also provide endless hours of amusement for alarm company operators, especially the residential installations (if you get my drift), who don’t mind telling these stories to pass the time at their new jobs.  Believe me, I understand the impulse, although thankfully I’ve never been in that position myself.

That was why I understood the point of the NSA’s critics on the TSP.  A program like this requires strict supervision to keep abuses from happening.  If what ABC reports is correct, it doesn’t look like we’re getting it.

Update II:  Hmm.  It looks like ABC didn’t do enough research on one of its sources.  Adrienne Kinne is also on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War, a fact ABC doesn’t mention in its piece.  Faulk now works for the Metro Spirit as a reporter and doesn’t appear to have joined any organized political opposition to the war, but has spoken out against it.

Does that make them not credible?  Not necessarily, especially with Faulk.  They may have come to oppose the war based on these very experiences.  However, ABC certainly should have told its readers and viewers about Kinne’s association with IVAW.

Update III: Just to remind readers, the Bush administration claimed the TSP would only surveil without search warrants calls from phone numbers that had been previously implicated in terrorist activities.  They claimed they would get warrants, as provided by FISA, for all other calls with at least one destination point within the US.  If they’re recording calls outside of those parameters, they’re explicitly violating the law and breaking that promise.

Update IV: Conn Carroll reminds me that satellite phones are not covered under the FISA law and the NSA can listen to any and all conversations on them without warrants.  ABC didn’t bother to mention that either.  Still, is this really what the NSA should be doing?  If the satellite phone number belongs to an Army officer instead of a terrorist, why are we wasting resources on surveilling it?


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Taliban during phone goat love counts as security related.

Hening on October 9, 2008 at 8:39 AM

No one could have foreseen the NSA abusing its authority to eavesdrop on lonely Americans.

e-pirate on October 9, 2008 at 8:40 AM

Why would anyone in their right mind admit to doing something to a national media outlet that’s illegal, and puts their name forever in Google as showing incredibly poor judgment at work?

The only spying we need to do is on these people’s bank accounts. Doing what they did goes against a basic human need for self preservation.

hippie_chucker on October 9, 2008 at 8:41 AM

The next time you make love to your significant other, remember: the government may be listening.

factoid on October 9, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Its illegal to listen to the terrorists!

Bicyea on October 9, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Ed, you make a good point, but wouldn’t you possibly be tempted to listen in on a few phone sex calls after listening to thousands of hours of boring garbage?

Recording those goes a bit too far though.

Yes, I am getting a good laugh from this.

DannoJyd on October 9, 2008 at 8:43 AM

Sometimes I click blindly on a Hot Air link just to guess who posted it, Ed or AP, based on the writing and content.

Ed, you fooled me.

Terrie on October 9, 2008 at 8:45 AM

No one could have foreseen the NSA abusing its authority to eavesdrop on lonely Americans.

e-pirate on October 9, 2008 at 8:40 AM

Right. Employees of a highly secretive government organization are given the power to listen to whatever they want, without any requirement to justify their actions to a judge and without any opportunity for a review by subjects of their investigation who turn out to be innocent.

What could we possibly have expected to go wrong?

factoid on October 9, 2008 at 8:45 AM

“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,”

Just your average everyday American in the Middle East making phone sex calls on his satellite phone

If this is the average American, it’s no wonder we’re about to elect Jimmy Carter II to the presidency. Sheeese…

edgehead on October 9, 2008 at 8:50 AM

If these two are telling the truth, it’s not only a breach of that necessary trust in defending Americans from the asymmetrical threat of terrorists, it’s a criminal misuse of that limited resource.

Ed, come on, don’t buy those ABC liberal talking points. Even though those two Army Reservists may not have fully grasped the point, the reason why all those calls get intercepted is that you simply don’t know who is the terrorist and who isn’t. Maybe the terrorists begin all their phone calls with 5-10 minutes of chit-chat and then get down to business, hoping that NSA will think the call is just personal and will move on. Maybe the entire call is chit-chat with code words thrown in. And we all know that “journalists” and “aid workers” have been affiliated with terrorism and Al Qaeda before: how many “aid organizations” in America have been indicted for supporting terrorism? Like a dozen?

This is much ado about nothing. I’m sure occasional abuses took place (as they describe), but these are important activities for our national security and should continue.

Outlander on October 9, 2008 at 8:51 AM

Think of it as a work related perk.

Fletch54 on October 9, 2008 at 8:52 AM

Not helpful.

BadgerHawk on October 9, 2008 at 8:52 AM

There’s something else fishy going on here. Maybe the Middle Eastern shops had poor oversight, but I’ll vouch for the office I used to work for that there was none of these shenanigans going on. I’ll admit, as much as I can, that I’ve seen/heard some funny stuff, but it wasn’t from our own citizens. My husband, who is currently stationed at Ft. Meade (while not a linguist), would agree.

How these two are not in deep kaka, I have no idea, but I would never, ever approach the media about this stuff. There are multiples ways to report this the correct way, both within the civilian and military chains of command. Way to give average Americans yet another reason to fear the NSA – where the vast majority of workers are doing hard work keeping us safe and informed.

Anna on October 9, 2008 at 8:54 AM

factoid on October 9, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Is that a weak attempt at sarcasm in response to e-pirate’s fairly obvious sarcasm?

BadgerHawk on October 9, 2008 at 8:54 AM

After reading it again, Faulk (I know that name, I know I do) complains about them not getting rid of numbers that have garnered no results, at least while he was there. But you never know with these numbers, there are some that are so rarely used, or used frequently for other purposes, that you keep them around just in case.

It’s hard to explain without talking about stuff I shouldn’t, but I’m not very good at explaining anyway.

Anna on October 9, 2008 at 8:59 AM

meh. Child’s play. You should hear the stuff that used to come out of our trunk tester on Oki when we accidentally left it on. I’d be in the switch and all the sudden voices, thought I was crazy at first.

Of course, it’s all for call quality, you know.

And every telephone that hangs off the DSN is supposed to be adorned with DD Form 2056, which states, “This telephone is subject to monitoring at all times. Use of this telephone constitutes consent to monitoring”.

flashoverride on October 9, 2008 at 8:59 AM

If these two are telling the truth, … it’s a criminal misuse of that limited resource.

Having worked on NSA sites in the past in the same field as these two if they are telling the truth then not only do they deserve to have their Security Clearances pulled they deserve to be prosecuted for not bringing this behavior forward and exposing it before it got out of hand. I doubt that the majority of NSA analysts are taking part in these shenanigans or that it is as widespread as these two claim.

theguardianii on October 9, 2008 at 9:01 AM

Am I supposed to outraged by this stuff? Some unprofessional people listened in on phone sex and people talking about Grandma’s 90th birthday. I just watched that report on Good Morning America, and I’ve gotta say that it outraged me and amused me at the same time. They acted like this stuff was sanctioned specifically by President Bush. Yeah, I’m sure he’s sitting in the White House just waiting to hear about the finer points of phone sex and what Johnny’s grades are. Please. Just fire these people that did this at the NSA and move on. Ironically enough, the people on this “report” on ABC “News” should be prosecuted too. They didn’t even defend their actions anyway.

NathanG on October 9, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Having worked on NSA sites in the past in the same field as these two if they are telling the truth then not only do they deserve to have their Security Clearances pulled they deserve to be prosecuted for not bringing this behavior forward and exposing it before it got out of hand. I doubt that the majority of NSA analysts are taking part in these shenanigans or that it is as widespread as these two claim.

theguardianii on October 9, 2008 at 9:01 AM

Thank you. That’s what I’m saying.

Anna on October 9, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Americans inclined to have phone sex on international calls may have an unintended menage a trois instead.

So THAT is why I was charged extra on my last call..

:)

DaveC on October 9, 2008 at 9:05 AM

I spent 10 years as a Signals Intelligence Analyst with the US Air Force. I can see a way this could legally happen as well as a way it could turn illegal.

At times there might be a target that only transmits on one frequency. Even though non-targeted entities may use those same freqs that doesn’t preclude the intercept operators listening. It’s very possible they were tasked to monitor those freqs 24/7 and couldn’t help but listen in on non-targeted entities. Entirely legal.

What turns it illegal is when they RECORD those conversations and share them, even if it’s just amongst themselves and not through official channels.

This is one of those foggy areas and it may have just been individules breaking rules and not official policy. That said, anyone that knew of those illegal activities without reporting them should also be in serious trouble.

yeff on October 9, 2008 at 9:07 AM

For those of us who had to wade through hours and hours of boring garbage, we had other, more legal, ways of passing the time. Even salacious material gets boring after a while.

They were morons for recording it, and I hope they get pounded for it.

Anna on October 9, 2008 at 9:12 AM

Notice that it’s two Arab linguists making these statements. Just from that, as well as the following quote, it’s obvious whom we are trying to intercept: Some times, Kinne and Faulk said, the intercepts helped identify possible terror planning in Iraq and saved American lives.

“IED’s were disarmed before they exploded, that people who were intending to harm US forces were captured ahead of time,” Faulk said.

One wonders if their separation wasn ‘t related to the illicit monitoring activity Ed mentions above. After all, the State Department employees who accessed the personal data of their favorite politicians and celebrities were fired for those actions as well. These activities were a misuse of scarce Government resources and a definite intrusion into the privacy each American is guaranteed under law.

Also, what is being revealed here are intelligence means and methods — I count these two as having put our nation’s security at risk by their revelations of how their equipment operated and what it was able to do.

unclesmrgol on October 9, 2008 at 9:14 AM

In my former career in commercial security, other companies in our field made extensive use of microphones in both residential and commercial applications, which can help cut down false alarms.

So wait… You’re suggesting that people who have home alarm systems have their entire houses wired with microphones that can be remotely activated at will by alarm operators?

Outlander on October 9, 2008 at 9:15 AM

Intercepted message:

Woman: OH YES Barack! Give it to me, give it too me!

Obama: Hope! Change! Failed Economic Policies!

Woman: Yesss…. YES! Keep it going!

Obama: Saul Alinksy! ACORN! William Ayers!

Woman: That’s right, we’re having a grand old party! That’s the kind of party I like! YEEEESSSS!

*distant voice: “Senator McCaskill, we know you’re excited but could you keep it down?”

BKennedy on October 9, 2008 at 9:19 AM

So wait… You’re suggesting that people who have home alarm systems have their entire houses wired with microphones that can be remotely activated at will by alarm operators?

Outlander on October 9, 2008 at 9:15 AM

It depends on the system, and I didn’t work with them directly. All I can tell you is that anyone who wires their house with microphones and then has someone else monitoring them gets what they deserve.

It’s actually a good concept with commercial applications.

Ed Morrissey on October 9, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Odd no mention of these two while they were there reporting this up the chain. Odd that there is no mention of there filing complaints or charges against their peers or subordinates.

Was this a get out of the service epiphany that these two had? I am curious of all of the thousands of people that work at the NSA how were these two discovered?

The DOD needs to bring charges against these two they are confessing to criminal activity. It would be a great starting point to get all of the people involved in this.

Jdripper on October 9, 2008 at 9:33 AM

Recording those goes a bit too far though.

DannoJyd on October 9, 2008 at 8:43 AM

Listening to them goes to far in my opinion. If it really as they’re saying, that phone calls with absolutely no national security value are being listened to, then they’re doing harm to this country.

And why aren’t these two being in any way reprimanded? Why are they only bringing up now in front of cameras? Is it possible they’re just trying to cover their own tracks and blame it on others, hoping that being the whistle blower will keep them from getting in trouble?

I’ve defended that program and even with this still believe it’s important so long as information obtained on these calls that have nothing to do with national security will not be used against the callers in some form. However, I didn’t expect them to do this. Why should any American believe we won’t also be blackmailed with information discovered this way?

Esthier on October 9, 2008 at 9:38 AM

Red Herring…

Every single day, we tolerate being frisked to board an airplane in Cleveland. If you go to a country where there is a high probability of terrorists residing there, now listen up… YOUR PHONE CONVERSATION WILL BE INTERCEPTED AND GONE OVER WITH A FINE TOOTH COMB. Do you really think Hussein Terrorist is going to call the U. S. and say “Hmmm… what shall we bomb next Mohamed?”. Fact of life. Have a conversation from there and it will be listened to. Get over it.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Taliban Talik: ooo darling I miss you so much you cannot believe how hard it is to be all alone here in the cave, precious…

Precious: bleaaatt bleaaaatttt!

yeah we definitely need the democrats to have access to the “horrible poice state tools*” they have spent the last 8 years whining about.

*the DNC more worried about oppo ‘research’ on the GOP than stopping terrs

sven10077 on October 9, 2008 at 9:47 AM

Sounds like others the guys who should get in trouble are the ones who are spouting off…Now they have cover.

tomas on October 9, 2008 at 9:48 AM

Phone sex? Jeez, what is this, the ’80′s?

john1schn on October 9, 2008 at 9:50 AM

No really? This helps prove my point to naive idiots I’ve arguing for four years on this issue. No oversight causes these things to happen. Agencies are not very good at policing themselves and government is not good at policing itself but its better than nothing and then there is the whole matter of the Fourth Amendment becoming the new Tenth Amendment, completely ignored.

The lack of oversight argument is kind of like religion, if everyone realized that the spooky boogeyman in the sky that watches over their shoulder isn’t real and they have been fooled the whole time, some peoples’ behavior would change toward “evil”.

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 9:53 AM

Does this mean Obama no regrets his FISA vote? I’ll bet he’s getting an earful from the left.

Two points. First, this is a lamentable development, but what if that kind of talk is code? Second, fault me for my priorities, but this ranks a distant second behind stealing elections. Elections are at the foundation of our system; they enable us to vote out the bums or keep out the bums we don’t like. Listening on phone conversations can be prosecuted and remedied.

I prescribe some penicillin for this NSA pneumonia. I prescribe chemo for Obama and Acorn.

BuckeyeSam on October 9, 2008 at 9:55 AM

I worry about all this power these organizations have. The powers given to them by the Bush administration could very well be used against people like us by the next president. Not suspected terrorists, but people like us. Look at what Obama tried to do in Missouri with his troof squad. Just wait until he does this on a national scale.

mram on October 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM

The lack of oversight argument is kind of like religion, if everyone realized that the spooky boogeyman in the sky that watches over their shoulder isn’t real and they have been fooled the whole time, some peoples’ behavior would change toward “evil”.

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 9:53 AM

The simple fact is you have to analyze every conversation. That means recording it and listening to it. Encoded conversations would be the only way they would probably communicate, so how do you determine if it is real or fake without listening to it? You can’t. Get over it. Travel abroad and that is part of the package.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM

Can you imagine if they listened in on Barney Franks calls? You couldn’t pay me enough.

Fuquay Steve on October 9, 2008 at 9:59 AM

These are international calls… what percentage of call is that? 0.00000001%????

Give me one huge break.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 10:00 AM

It’s hard to explain without talking about stuff I shouldn’t, but I’m not very good at explaining anyway.

Anna on October 9, 2008 at 8:59 AM

Roger that. Having been in the -need to know- environment for 15 years, it’s really tough sometimes when people are grossly mistaken in their beliefs and cannot be told why they are mistaken.

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 10:04 AM

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM

No you don’t have to analyze every call, that’s not how it was sold. Suspected terrorists in your mind means everyone.

Yeah and if I am talking to someone across the street and due to phone technology the digital packets just so happen to run out of country, thus making it an international call. According to you they should be able to listen to mine and yours without any oversight besides “trust me, we can police ourselves.”

Yes complete authority with no oversight, that is what you are supporting. Why don’t you just get the telescreen in your bedroom and get it over with.

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM

mram on October 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM

Yes, and with full media support. Bush on topics like this usually gets superficial coverage by the press because many elements of the press are for it, but Obama will have full support in his abuses, think back to media coverage of Waco.

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 10:12 AM

Guess they don’t have that ten year agreement not to discuss this stuff (intercepted phone sex or more serious fare) anymore.

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 10:22 AM

No you don’t have to analyze every call, that’s not how it was sold. Suspected terrorists in your mind means everyone.

Yeah and if I am talking to someone across the street and due to phone technology the digital packets just so happen to run out of country, thus making it an international call. According to you they should be able to listen to mine and yours without any oversight besides “trust me, we can police ourselves.”

Yes complete authority with no oversight, that is what you are supporting. Why don’t you just get the telescreen in your bedroom and get it over with.

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Sorry… I didn’t know they were using phones with the number of 1-800-terrorist to identify themselves. I see no possible way of confirming who is on either end. These are international calls. Just my view, but I think they should be listening to all international calls.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a bit of a difference between a telephone call from Iraq to Detroit than a conversation between my wife and myself in our bedroom. I know the ACLU might disagree, but… well… f*ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Guess what? I don’t give a good g-damn. This is part of the job.

Know what I would do if I was a terrorist? I would make lots of other inoccuous calls, including plenty that were exactly of this nature (sexual, private) in order to get the NSA to stop listening to every call. I would start with the personal stuff, and then work in the sabotage later on the same conversation.

Scare tactics by those who hate our country. I ain’t buying it.

connertown on October 9, 2008 at 10:26 AM

It’s amazing what people will pry into when given accesss. Recent investigation at an LA hospital were the Hollywood gang goes…someone was snooping into their medical health records. DMV has also found employees searching data bases for info on celebrities. IRS has found employees doing the same on income tax returns. People, being ‘people’, it’s gonna happen.

GarandFan on October 9, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Guess they don’t have that ten year agreement not to discuss this stuff (intercepted phone sex or more serious fare) anymore.

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 10:22 AM

.
The investigation for my clearance was from birth to present and the NDA is to the date of death. What ten years are you talking about?

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 10:36 AM

The investigation for my clearance was from birth to present and the NDA is to the date of death. What ten years are you talking about?

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Exceptions:

If you are talking to the New York Times
If you are talking to the Los Angeles Times
If you are talking to ABC
If you are talking to CBS
If you are talking to NBC (or affiliates)
If you are talking to CNN
If you worked for the CIA and you need to write a book
If it casts Republicans in a negative light
If it casts the United States in a negative light
If you are a Democrat

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 10:47 AM

If that guy is on the board for Veteran Against The Iraq War, then you can’t believe a word of what he said.

However, even if that is true I’m more concerned about making the haystack bigger than my private conversations being spied on. Americans overseas should not have the same rights to privacy as they enjoy within the U.S. borders. Americans overseas should be listened in on from time to time to make sure they’re not up to no good. If they use a satellite phone, then we should see what they’re up to.

jonezee on October 9, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Yeah and if I am talking to someone across the street and due to phone technology the digital packets just so happen to run out of country, thus making it an international call. According to you they should be able to listen to mine and yours without any oversight besides “trust me, we can police ourselves.”

LevStrauss on October 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Does that really seem like a likely scenario? If it was, half the population of the country would have to be employed monitoring the other half.

And if you’re just across the street why are you having phone sex?

DarkCurrent on October 9, 2008 at 10:54 AM

I never believed for a second they were gonna get warrants to do anything. The NSA intercepts what it wants when it wants and always has. As long as they keep us safe from terrorist attacks I have no problem with it.

jonezee on October 9, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Hmmm – would this include calls to Australia?

Forget it. I’m never running for President.

Editor on October 9, 2008 at 10:55 AM

Americans overseas should not have the same rights to privacy as they enjoy within the U.S. borders. Americans overseas should be listened in on from time to time to make sure they’re not up to no good.

jonezee on October 9, 2008 at 10:52 AM

As an American living abroad, agreed!

DarkCurrent on October 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM

Bush lies, kittens die!

McLovin on October 9, 2008 at 11:06 AM

Sorry, I call BS on this.

These people are giving out there names to classified information. I hardly doubt this is a factual report.

If it is, how are they not thrown in jail?

TheHat on October 9, 2008 at 11:07 AM

I call BS too.
I also call on the fact that anyone who thinks their calls havent been listened too ever, must still leave their teeth under their pillow in hope of getting oney for them. I remember the 70′s when we’d get a letter from the FCC about curse words said on a CB radio for goodness sakes with quoted text. 30 years later, its not any differant and technology sure allows for a lot more monitoring. I guess you think your emails are not read either. Where have some of you people been?

johnnyU on October 9, 2008 at 11:36 AM

These are international calls… what percentage of call is that? 0.00000001%????

Give me one huge break.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Actually, a lot higher a percentage. An international call is any circuit completed between the PSTs of two nations, not necessarily those completed between the US and somewhere else. In fact, the statements by both whistleblowers that intercepts had saved American lives from IEDs indicate that some calls may have originated and ended in the same country (e.g., Iraq).

I furthermore think the Captain may well be making a false assumption when he links this to the TSP.

unclesmrgol on October 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM

Actually, a lot higher a percentage. An international call is any circuit completed between the PSTs of two nations, not necessarily those completed between the US and somewhere else. In fact, the statements by both whistleblowers that intercepts had saved American lives from IEDs indicate that some calls may have originated and ended in the same country (e.g., Iraq).

I furthermore think the Captain may well be making a false assumption when he links this to the TSP.

unclesmrgol on October 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM

But it is stated as originating and terminating… routing is not relevant.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Hell… there are so many calls that are “routed” via sattelite… that is out of this world.

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Actually, a lot higher a percentage. An international call is any circuit completed between the PSTs of two nations, not necessarily those completed between the US and somewhere else. In fact, the statements by both whistleblowers that intercepts had saved American lives from IEDs indicate that some calls may have originated and ended in the same country (e.g., Iraq).

unclesmrgol on October 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM

I work for one of the NSA’s sister agencies, and our understanding is that the NSA DOES NOT need warrants for totally international calls that pass through our switches or that they’re able to intercept.
So, in theory, FISA should’nt apply here.

batperez on October 9, 2008 at 11:58 AM

Both of these sock puppets are indict-able. The NDA they signed HAS NO FRAKKING EXPIRATION DATE, and their are several channels they could have used to let their managers know of any egregious violations

more MSM B.S…………….

Janos Hunyadi on October 9, 2008 at 12:09 PM

I am shocked, shocked! that the government, when given power that usurps the Constitution, would abuse it! Shocked!

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 12:11 PM

.

The investigation for my clearance was from birth to present and the NDA is to the date of death. What ten years are you talking about?

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 10:36 AM

I’m not talking about the investigation into your background (DD form 398). I’m talking about the thing that you find out when you’re doing your job. One signs an agreement not to disclose them. Surely you remember that.

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 12:14 PM

thing=things

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 12:14 PM

The NDA is not to the death; it’s to whenever the NDA says it is.

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 12:15 PM

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 12:11 PM

ACORN just called… they want you back at work.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 12:25 PM

The NDA is not to the death; it’s to whenever the NDA says it is.

baldilocks on October 9, 2008 at 12:15 PM

And what did I say? Death!

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 12:25 PM

If the satellite phone number belongs to an Army officer instead of a terrorist, why are we wasting resources on surveilling it?

Good question. As far as I’m concerned, it’s theft of tax payer resources to do so.

Esthier on October 9, 2008 at 12:44 PM

ACORN just called… they want you back at work.

CC

CapedConservative on October 9, 2008 at 12:25 PM

I can’t wait ’til President Obama continues to expand the power of the executive branch. :D

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 12:54 PM

Do the things these two describe happen? Yes, they do.

How do I know? I did basically the same job these two did for over 20 years while I was in the military.

And yes, while I’ll confirm that what they’re talking about does occur (operators giving attention to ‘non-target’ material) – it is part and parcel with what we are asking these young men and women to do. Typically, very dedicated and professional young men and women, with a grave responsibility placed upon them – to use their skills and talents to identify information that can save people’s lives. Literally.

We then ask them to do this noble work – despite the immensity and complexity of doing the job correctly, in sometimes very, very frustrating circumstance. The description of looking for a needle in a haystack sounds like child’s play compared to what people charged with this task are asked to do – and do well.

The situation they describe is symptomatic of what they were actually involved in. Every piece of communication in transit, by any means available, at any given time, could contain the Essential Element of Information that gets an IED disarmed. Or foils an airline hijack plot. Or detects the transfer of a Chemical, Biological, or Radiological device to a terrorist organization. Thing is, those golden nuggets are hidden away, in all that ‘noise’. It is helpful, that, over time, people will become repetitive, and/or sloppy, so you develop some pretty good ideas where to look for the nuggets, which cuts things down. But still, there is often times a certain amount of uncertainty, particularly when dealing with an ‘anonymous’ data stream – is it an exchange of information about the successful purchase of baby diapers, or is ‘baby diapers’ a substitute for something else? Drugs? An IED? The determination falls on the shoulders of the people doing the work we’re talking about. If it’s two guys, who’ve never discussed either diapers or kids at all, it’s suspicious. If it’s two women talking about their kids, not so much. The point is, you cannot make that determination without following along at least long enough to get a sense of what’s happening. And sometimes, when the targets you’re looking for share basically public access systems, you come across the types of material mentioned in the article.

Is this kind of stuff distractionary and does it get listened to anyway? Yep. Question – when was the last time, honestly, you drove by a car wreck without even the urge to see what happened? Same principle applies.

Now, as for them complaining about specific targets being kept on their search lists longer than they felt necessary. That one is strictly a judgement call, with damned few examples one way or the other I can think of to say who’s right, particularly in a given situation I’m not directly involved in (and probably wouldn’t be discussing if I was). Sure you can tell yourself that a target is ‘gone’ – and be proved wrong very shortly afterwards when it pops up again. And it is not only possible, but probable, that the numbers they’re complaining about were added to the list got there through some method other than simply being stumbled across.

I’ve always found it somewhat humorous when people spin themselves into an outrage that potentially, but highly unlikely, a completely anonymous person, who has no real idea who they are, may be exposed to their kinky phone sex lives in the course of doing an extremely important and demanding task.

Here’s a clue from someone who’s been there, done that, and isn’t allowed to wear the T-shirts about it.

We just don’t freekin care. Literally, while it may supply a passing chuckle at 3:45am in the middle of an otherwise “bleeder” mid-shift, we really don’t give a shit. People’s kinky sex lives are not what we’re looking for.

And these people probably have no apprehension at all that any number of people, working for the financial institutions that support their daily lives, have ready access to all of their financial information – which usually includes multiple ways to identify them, not the least of which is usually their full name and address, and includes all those credit card charges to this and that thing their neighbors may find to be morally questionable activity.

Are there safeguards in place to protect American citizens from exploitation by this system? Absolutely. In a cleared environment, I could easily relate at least two incidents I was personally involved with, where useful (but not life altering) information was not acted on and basically destroyed, simply because we had a reasonable suspicion that those involved, despite being at a location outside the US, were in fact US citizens. And that was the level of caution and sense of responsibility that was ingrained from the first day of training to do the job, and repeatedly thereafter, at least from my experience.

The general sense against even conducting covert intelligence surveillance has always been “gentlemen do not open and read other people’s mail”. While the chivalry of the statement, and the sentiment, is admirable, in practical terms, it’s usually a good way to set yourself up for a baseball bat to the mouth, you could have seen coming.

Do the alphabet agencies require oversight? Absolutely. But please don’t ever mistake one or two disgruntled and intellectually confused individuals spouting off about sensational red herrings drive the train.

Wind Rider on October 9, 2008 at 1:02 PM

At worst, those are some very unprofessional men; recordings of phone sex and the like should have resulted in their being fired. Nothing sinister on the part of the NSA, however, and personally . . . if I made a phone call to the Middle East I wouldn’t expect it to go untapped.

Ryan Gandy on October 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM

How do you determine that a phone call is not a security threat before you listened to it. Going by this standard no average, ordinary American should be searched when returning to the U.S. Only above average extraordinary criminals should be searched by customs.

mtbunji on October 9, 2008 at 1:07 PM

‘Bush lied; peopled spied”.

jim m on October 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM

‘Bush lied; peopled spied”.

jim m on October 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM

When Sen. Obama is President, you won’t be saying that. And I’ll call you a whiner. Deal?

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 1:18 PM

Here’s a clue from someone who’s been there, done that, and isn’t allowed to wear the T-shirts about it.
.
useful (but not life altering) information was not acted on and basically destroyed, simply because we had a reasonable suspicion that those involved, despite being at a location outside the US, were in fact US citizens
.
Wind Rider on October 9, 2008 at 1:02 PM

.
Our paths may have crossed.

News2Use on October 9, 2008 at 1:22 PM

Maybe I’ll be able to type better in a few weeks, too…. Deal.

(And I guess we all now know what day job Ace at Ace of Spades must have).

jim m on October 9, 2008 at 1:26 PM

May I point out that the overseas phone sex trade is ran by the same people as the overseas sex trade, so:

Press 1 for Girl

Press 2 for Boy

Press 911911 for Death to America

- The Cat

MirCat on October 9, 2008 at 1:42 PM

If I was a bad guy I’d be tempted to start all of my phone conversations with 2 minutes of phone sex just to get the good guys off the line before I started talking about the real sensitive info, if I used a phone at all and didn’t use inocuous code phrases.

Recording for jollies goes too far. Recording for analysis before disposal… I could see. In general I am far less disturbed by this than I am by ACORN’s massive voter fraud, etc.

AnotherOpinion on October 9, 2008 at 2:44 PM

In general I am far less disturbed by this than I am by ACORN’s massive voter fraud, etc.

AnotherOpinion on October 9, 2008 at 2:44 PM

I’m not, but then I think privacy is a right.

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 3:27 PM

I’m not, but then I think privacy is a right.

philnewkirk on October 9, 2008 at 3:27 PM

And a free election is not?

Esthier on October 9, 2008 at 3:30 PM

Wow, who knew that human beings weren’t perfect? I for one am SHOCKED to learn that out of thousands of people who work for the NSA, a few of them do stuff they aren’t supposed to do. SHOCKED I tells ya. What’s next, the revelation that…GASP….some cops break the law???

xblade on October 9, 2008 at 5:11 PM

yawn…

massive eyeroll…

it’s not the case that “defusing a single IED makes the whole thing worth it”; but it’s closer to that than “the Contitution is being shredded by the Bush administration”

gimme a break

urbancenturion on October 9, 2008 at 5:21 PM

Wind Rider,

You know, then, exactly which directives govern this sort of monitoring. It used to be that, once it was found and identified for what it was, you burned it. One certainly didn’t talk about it. I know of two cases where that didn’t happen in a timely fashion, and two careers went down in flames. It was the right call, both times. Regardless of the immediate intelligence value what might be gained isn’t always worth the cost of the violation of the US entity’s rights.

People might not agree with all of those rules, but they are there, and they make sense. I did my 20, too, same stuff, in a few different places. There’s are good reasons the Agency has restrictions placed on it. You know it, and I know it. I wish everybody else had that same sense of “loose lips sink ships.”

I dunno, Rider. I just wish someone had reminded these folks about what happens when you talk out of school. Why they haven’t been called on it, I’m not sure. Maybe things aren’t what they used to be.

creekspecter on October 9, 2008 at 6:46 PM

If they’re recording calls outside of those parameters, they’re explicitly violating the law and breaking that promise.

Might as well get used to it. Once President Obama gets control of all the powers that Bush ordered, the whole country will be under surveillance.

angelat0763 on October 9, 2008 at 7:22 PM

If this is the average American, it’s no wonder we’re about to elect Jimmy Carter II to the presidency. Sheeese…

edgehead on October 9, 2008 at 8:50 AM

In my humble opinion I think it’s a heck of a lot closer to Osama Obama then it is to Jimmy Carter Two. Barack is an order taker. He gets his orders from terrorists, both foreign and domestic. I honestly think he is the original Machurian Candidate. Again, just my humble opinion.

Vntnrse on October 9, 2008 at 11:59 PM

This won’t happen when Obama is elected. There will be strict controls to insure that only enemied of the state are monitored.

Of course that includes anyone who is not a Moveon Democrat.

schmuck281 on October 10, 2008 at 2:44 AM