NSA enjoys eavesdropping on US soldiers' phone sex calls

ABC News reports that, "despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary," the NSA listens in on ordinary phone calls of US citizens overseas, and military intercept operators who work at the National Security Agency (NSA) enjoy sharing and saving recordings of US officers' pillow-talk and phone sex calls with their spouses back home.
[Intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee 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.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall's "smoke pit," but ended up feeling badly about his actions.

"I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me," he said.

In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted.

"It's not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it," Gen. Hayden testified.

Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans


  1. There is some narrow focus and drilling involved.

    Insert Princess Bride joke about prescriptive and descriptive linguistics and semantic punnery.

  2. Listening to phone sex has national security ramifications? So, is the NSA watching soldiers have sex, too, just in case someone tries to talk ideology? With their wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/ sig-o? Have these people ever had phone sex or sex while on a short leave somewhere? It’s possible to wax philosophical, but highly unlikely.

    You’re usually busy. And then very, very tired.

    Way to bolster soldier’s morale, NSA. This was bound to reach daylight and soon, thanks to the current anger of pretty much everyone at our broken system. Wiretapping phone sex is about the biggest waste of time I can imagine and using the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘Al-Qaeda’ does not make it a valuable use of tax-payer money and analysts’ time.

    This is yet another symptom of the way that, as a group, our security agencies seem singularly unable to consider the ramifications and long term consequences of their actions. I’m glad Faulk (and it seems a number of people, in the last few years) decided to report this situation. I think trying to combat the flagrant misuse of power is an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation.

  3. Hayden: ‘…not for the heck of it….’

    Indeed, no. It was for prurient interest, which is obviously an important category of NSA investigation.

  4. From Orwell’s ‘1984’:

    “…Winston’s memories of his mother’s love “in a time when there were still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason” confront his suspicions that to “remain human”, one was “not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another…”

    The Party is against sex and the goal is not just to prevent men and women from feeling loyal to each other, which in turn will prevent the Party from exercising its control. The real purpose is to remove pleasure from sex.

    “[…] sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war fever and leader worship.”

    Golly, one is forced to wonder if the NSA is using ‘1984’ as an instructions manual.

  5. umm.. this all happened in the Green Zone?

    Were the officers, journalists, and others doing their heavy breathing on military bases and military phone lines? If a military intercept operator was listening, I bet you they were.

    Sorry, but those aren’t private lines, and they are monitored. The phones even have a warning label on them to that effect.

  6. Think about! Those soldiers could be terrorists talking in phone sex about their terrorist plans!

    what a joke…

  7. Ha.

    I knew about this like five years ago.

    Gave up telling the story after realizing no one gave a crap.

  8. We have allowed ourselves to become a sick society over the last 8 years. We bust Max Headroom and allow this. Sad.

  9. Hey if some desperate person is getting their jollies off of my phone calls, that’s their issue… not mine. I’m the one getting the good phone sex!

  10. Common sense should have told Bush and Congress both that a lack of oversight will lead to abuses (hmmm. . . sounds like the financial crisis). I know that if I were allowed to listen in on anybody’s phone calls at whim I would sure be tempted to snoop for kicks. Imagine the things you do on a slow day at work, then translate that to someone running phone taps. Having to go through the motions to get a warrant from a judge is not only oversight, but a hurdle that keeps bored workers from abusing the system for kicks. It’s human nature, high morals and lofty goals be damned.

  11. why cubie@9, I’m surprised at you! Surely phone voyeurism with attendant kleenex soiling is above those stern jawed guardians of freedom! Or is that how they got those jaws?

  12. The story is less somehow depressing than the fact that it’s not at all surprising. When did we become the global noogie patrol. Don’t answer that.

  13. Sorry, but those aren’t private lines, and they are monitored.

    That is not a valid excuse for blatantly unethical collection and sharing of recordings that the interceptors believed had no military value. This is not about the legality of the intercept, this is about the abusive way in which the intercepted data was handled.

  14. @9 and 21–it wasn’t just the green zone. From the article:

    “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.

  15. Information: If its collected, it can and will be abused, the only way it won’t be abused, is to not collect it in the first place.

  16. @9 Read the article. These were satellite phone calls, not calls made on land lines installed by the invading imperialist forces.

  17. @24, it’s every communication that comes out of the mideast.

    The reason civilian calls were mentioned is because all telephone calls and internet traffic coming out of US facilities in the middle east are bounced off a satellite. Hence, EVERYTHING is monitored and intercepted.

    If guys from Ft. Gordon were telling me that they were listening to everything, than I take their word that they listen to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. CTs don’t say much about what they do, but what they do say is most assuredly not bullshit.

    Another tidbit, when there’s a Marine casualty in Iraq they do this thing called River City. It’s a term describing a communications blackout — telephone, internet, &e. — that’s instituted as soon as a Marine is killed and lasts as long as it takes to inform the casualty’s next of kin. I’ve had more than one phone call and IM conversation interrupted because of this.

    They’re able to knock out all outbound/inbound traffic to the base because everything, like I said, is bounced off a satellite.

  18. Having worked with and around intelligence community personnel for many years, I have heard of this kind of thing several times before. There are strict rules against this type of thing. Unfortunately, you get an 18-19 year old kid straight out of highschool doing the monitoring and these kinds of things are going to happen. Add to that a 22 year old kid put in a supervisory position whose only qualification is a bachelors degree. They are taught to believe that this degree somehow puts them on a high pedestal and they are never to be questioned.

    I’ve seen before where this kind of immature soldier and poor leadership has lead to exactly this type of violation. When the violations are brought up it usually results in a minor reprimand and corrective training on the relevant regulations even for repeated offenses. Just as #23 pointed out, so long as humans are in charge this kind of violation is going to continue.

    My supervisor, an intel analyst, and I get in an argument almost every week about whether more or less intel oversight is needed. He points out with good intent that it is hard to do good intelligence on actual badguys because of all the rules. He then mocks me that I am so important and my life is so interesting that the NSA is monitoring all my calls. He just doesn’t get how common this type of thing really is.

  19. Since it is paid for with public monies we should all be allowed to listen in.
    They should post the juicy parts on the Web instead of hogging it all for themselves on Joe Public’s dime.

  20. @25 Good follow-up, thanks.
    Thinking back about my choice of words, I want to make it clear I am not commending the Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, or Airmen serving in Iraq. My reference to Imperialism sits firmly on Bush’s shoulders.

  21. It seems that perhaps some are missing the point of the article and what it’s revelations imply.

    My personal concern isn’t that some calls are being monitored, or even that ALL communications to and from the theater of war are tightly controlled. There is a valid argument supporting this behavior.

    My concern is that NSA grunts are getting together and having prurient eavesdropping parties, instead of doing their jobs. Not only is this a waste of valuable resources, it undermines morale among the troops knowing that giggling 19 year old NSA grunts are sequestered away someplace safe mocking their sex lives with loved ones back home.

    Totally uncool.

  22. Flendon @26: “He then mocks me that I am so important and my life is so interesting that the NSA is monitoring all my calls. He just doesn’t get how common this type of thing really is.”

    That’s typically the reaction I get too. My long-distance boyfriend is studying in an Information Assurance program heavily associated with the NSA. I’ve known since before we got together that they monitor all his calls and network traffic. Because of the distance, our relationship has been almost entirely mediated by phones, computers, webcams, etc. I don’t doubt for a second that every word we’ve said to each other has been intercepted (I’ve heard recordings of our conversations played back from a “hidden” memory location on his mobile phone, for example). We’ve often joked that we probably have a fan club somewhere. It’s a little less funny when it’s confirmed to be true.

  23. George Carlin: “…A guy who used to be in Washington knew that his phone was tapped, used to answer, Fuck Hoover, yes, go ahead…”

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