How do I love thee? Let the National Security Agency count the ways. On at least twelve occasions in the past ten years, NSA employees illegally listened in on phone calls of girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, spouses, and engaged in other "intentional" authority abuses, according to a letter just released from the agency's inspector general. Michael Isikoff at NBC News reports that the NSA also has two open investigations into alleged misuse of its eavesdropping authorities and is reviewing a third one for possible investigation.
[Dr. George Ellard]'s letter – in response to an inquiry by GOP Sen. Charles Grassley – was prompted by media reports that NSA employees at times have been caught in what is informally known as "loveint" – collecting intelligence on love interests. But until now, the specific examples and the frequency of such cases have never been disclosed by the NSA.
In one case revealed by Ellard, an NSA employee for five years snooped on the phone calls of nine female foreign nationals "without a valid foreign intelligence purposes." In another, 2011 instance, an NSA employee admitted it was "her practice" to eavesdrop on foreign phone numbers "she obtained in social settings" in order to ensure she was not talking to "shady characters." Both employees resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken.