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NSA Officers Sometimes Spy On Love Interests 384

Posted by timothy
from the lives-of-others dept.
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "The latest twist in the NSA coverage sounds like something out of a dime-store romance novel — NSA agents eavesdropping on their current and former girlfriends. Official categories of spying have included SIGINT (signals intelligence) and HUMINT (human intelligence) and now the NSA has added a new category to the lexicon — LOVEINT — which is surely destined to be a popular hashtag now."
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NSA Officers Sometimes Spy On Love Interests

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  • by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:23AM (#44663589) Journal

    Really is anyone surprised?

    • by kthreadd (1558445) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:25AM (#44663599)

      Wasn't the oversight supposed to prevent this?

      • by jamstar7 (694492) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:38AM (#44663669)

        Really is anyone surprised?

        Wasn't the oversight supposed to prevent this?

        Didn't the FISA court just reveal a few days ago that they can't do proper oversight on NSA? And nothing from the House Intelligence Committee either...

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:22AM (#44663963) Homepage

          According to TFA most incidents were "self reported", meaning someone failed a polygraph. Since polygraphs are bullshit we know a lot of times the criminal abusing this power got away with it.

          • by arobatino (46791) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:29AM (#44664019)

            According to TFA most incidents were "self reported", meaning someone failed a polygraph. Since polygraphs are bullshit we know a lot of times the criminal abusing this power got away with it.

            Not to mention that it's not in the NSA's self-interest to learn about these cases, since it makes them look bad. So they probably don't ask more than the most perfunctory questions in this area.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:39AM (#44663677)

        > Wasn't the oversight supposed to prevent this?

        Yes it was. According to the article most of these were only found out during un-related lie-detector sessions, not by any auditing system. It poses the question - how many other cases of abuse have slipped by because the employee knew how to fake out the lie detectors?

        • by hedwards (940851)
          Probably a significant number. Polygraphs are at best 85-95% reliable, according to supporters, and the real reliability is probably substantially lower for people that have to pass a polygraph in order to get hired. What's worse is tha the type of people that would be engaged in this sort of thing are much less likely to think it's wrong or expect to be caught. If you don't think something is wrong and don't expect to be caught, the likelihood of a polygraph catching you is minimal.
        • by Tom (822) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @01:54PM (#44664905) Homepage Journal

          It also means the auditing systems failed.

          I used to run the IT compliancy in a mid-size company (2500 employees). I know the technical and process options you have, and frankly, this should either not be possible at all (technology solution) or have been caught during auditing (process solution). This is the kind of stuff that Separation of Duties was invented to prevent.

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:14AM (#44663901) Homepage

        Oversight. Don't you get it at all. You are being handed another charade. NSA is meant to secure and gather intelligence, not act upon it, it was never set up that way.

        You are being handed the "BIG LIE", what counts is what other agencies who received private information from the NSA, who had access to the electronic interception established by the NSA, did with that illegally obtained information. They are now looking to through out a few scape goats, a smoke screen to hide the others well beyond the confines of the NSA.

        How much information did the US Department of Homeland Security receive from the NSA. What was the nature of the information, who had control over it and what did they do with it. The NSA are a direct feeder of information into the CIA, again, what information was received, who had access and what did they do with it. Next up the FBI, how much were the FBI in bed with the NSA, why did the FBI allow agents of the NSA to freely break the law. What information did the FBI receive and what did they do with it.

        Now you would think it would stop there, but oh no, it get's far far worse. It is public knowledge the corporate security contractors had full access to the information being gathered under the NSA auspices. Private for profit individuals with total and full access to all the intelligence information, now what the hell did they do with that information and who else did they give it too. What politicians and their backers had access to what information, to leverage power.

        Now you are getting a pretty little song and dance about a couple of NSA agents being naughty, all the while else the NSA provided access too with out any control at all and no record of what they did and Uncle Tom Obama the choom gang coward pretending it all stops at the NSA's door. The intelligence gatherer and not at the CIA's, Department of Homeland Security, FBI's et al (basically the whole US military industrial complex and it's financing banks). Those are the organisations that act upon the information provided by the NSA, they were all in on it, they all knew it was going on and they all had access to the information.

        • It is public knowledge the corporate security contractors had full access to the information being gathered under the NSA auspices. Private for profit individuals with total and full access to all the intelligence information

          I'm going to need a cite for that because I've been following this pretty closely and this is the first I've heard of private citizens having "total and full access" to the NSA's data.

          • by RogL (608926) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @12:02PM (#44664235) Homepage

            It is public knowledge the corporate security contractors had full access to the information being gathered under the NSA auspices. Private for profit individuals with total and full access to all the intelligence information

            I'm going to need a cite for that because I've been following this pretty closely and this is the first I've heard of private citizens having "total and full access" to the NSA's data.

            Wasn't Snowden a corporate security contractor?

            • > Wasn't Snowden a corporate security contractor?

              No, he was a contract employee. A "corporate security contractor" would be a company like Blackwater/Xe/Academi. The implication of the OP is that these private firms were able to request data from the NSA for their own purposes, not that people who worked for the NSA on contract did the same jobs as direct employees of the NSA.

            • by Dare nMc (468959)

              Snowden downloaded NSA secrets while working for Dell [google.com] But that was top secret documents, not access to the spy data. Snowden had claimed to be able to access that as well, but I don't know at what role he was in, when he claimed he could do that.

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:37AM (#44663665)

      No one is surprised, but what about spying on other people's sexting (or whatever you call it when people send revealing pictures of themselves via email). If you really want the general public to get properly outraged over this stuff, forget the 4th Amendment, and find cases of Carly sending interesting pictures of herself to her boyfriend, with the expectation of privacy (forget the technical aspects of whether that expectation is reasonable - human decency says you don't read other people's mail).

      It's actually better if Carly, and a bazillion others are at least 18. Otherwise it would degenerate into a discussion of "child pron", whether it was reported, individual criminals at NSA, yada, yada, yada. 18+ women sending revealing pictures of themselves to boyfriends/husbands, and people at the NSA checking them out, is exactly the sort of Peeping Tom behavior that would get the whole country up in arms.

    • Hopefully. If everyone knows how bad an idea this is, but we all just go along with it because meh, then that doesn't really say good things about our ability to make decisions.

      It wouldn't be a whole lot better if most people went along with the NSA because they honestly believed it was necessary and wouldn't be abused, but at least that would mean that stories like this coming out could make them realize it was a bad idea and change it. Wheras if it's just apathy, then that's not going to be changed a
    • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:52AM (#44664163) Homepage

      > Really is anyone surprised?

      No, and I'm afraid that endless surveillance is going to become the "New Normal."

      If something can be done, it WILL be done, regardless of any laws passed to stop it. People are curious, people want power, people want control. For better or worse, the Digital Age is upon us, and all the laws in the world are not going to stop a determined person from digging into your data if he/she wants to. They'll just find better ways to hide what they're doing.

      Think about it. The government's approach to this has been to punish the LEAKERS who've brought attention to the surveillance. Not to make any meaningful changes in the surveillance itself. That, right there, proves my point.

    • The only thing remaining is whether anyone has used it for political advantage yet. At that point, we'll have literally hit all of the, "what could possibly go wrong?" steps available.

      I actually expected it to take a few more years before it degenerated to this. Naive me.
  • ctrl-c (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso (153703) * on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:23AM (#44663593) Homepage Journal

    I had to do a SIGINT on previous girlfriends too.

    • I had to do a SIGINT on previous girlfriends too.

      I have never needed to use such drastic measures. Usually a SIGTSTP has been enough.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I had to do a SIGINT on previous girlfriends too.

      Joking aside, it's a well-known fact dating back to well before the roman empire that family is a vulnerability that can be exploited in warfare. The NSA, like any good intelligence agency, keeps track of all exploitable weaknesses in both its own agents as well as the enemy's.

      I don't think this is particularly newsworthy -- the problem with the NSA isn't their capabilities, but rather who they're using them on. Very often, it seems the NSA is being run more like the FBI; chasing down the political adversar

  • by TCM (130219) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:30AM (#44663633)

    Humans pursuing their petty little human needs when noone is looking? YOU DON'T SAY!

    Separation of power was not thought up by idiots, you know.

    • Re:Humans (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kthreadd (1558445) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:32AM (#44663643)

      Actually it's not that unlikely that your girlfriend/boyfriend might be a terrorist if you work for the NSA. Just think of it, the perfect way to infiltrate the system. If anything this should be mandatory procedure for all NSA employees.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ebno-10db (1459097)

        You would make a brilliant bureaucrat/politician. I'm not saying you are one, or even that you have the slightest inclination towards such sleazy behavior, but you certainly understand how they think.

        • Actually it's not that unlikely that your Slashdotting colleagues are bureaucrats/politicians. Just think of it, the perfect way to infiltrate the opposition. When they get control of enough karma they can begin manipulating which opinions get heard and which do not by a segment of the pro software-, speech-, and political-freedom movement.
      • Re:Humans (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PPH (736903) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:29AM (#44664015)

        That's not the way background checks for security clearances work. You don't snoop on your own wife/girlfriend/whatever. The agency has people that check out your activities and associates from time to time for any potentially compromising (blackmail potential) situation or connections to foreign intelligence or criminal groups. Other information uncovered is rarely fed back to the employee.

      • The late, great East German Spymaster Markus Wolf, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markus_wolf [wikipedia.org] , aka "The Man Without a Face", was a virtuoso at this. In post-war West Germany, there was a shortage of eligible bachelors, and an overabundance of lonely, frumpy spinster single secretaries working for important politicians. He slipped in East German romeos who were more than welcomed by the secretaries . . . and didn't mind handing over a few frivolous documents that they were typing for their bosses. The secr

    • Re:Humans (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:52AM (#44663761)

      Yeah this is exactly why people have a real problem with ubiquitous spy networks. They will inevitably be abused. What happens when the government changes and the new guys don't mind using this apparatus to suppress political dissent? What happens when dissent has been suppressed, the administration becomes the aristocracy and the president effectively becomes king? It's happened before in many places, and the only lesson to take away from all this is that the price of freedom is indeed eternal vigilance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hazeii (5702)

        Em, it's already being used like that [washingtonsblog.com].

      • Re:Humans (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:33AM (#44664055) Homepage

        This is something we should all understand: There's effectively no difference between "actual abuse" and "a system that enables abuse with no accountability". If you have a system that enables abuse without the proper safeguards against abuse, then it's only a matter of time before people start taking advantage of the situation.

  • by kthreadd (1558445) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:34AM (#44663649)

    I guess there's no one spying on their boyfriends at the NSA then.

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:41AM (#44663689)

      Good point. Probably the only ethical thing about the NSA is that they're an equal opportunity employer.

  • by puddingebola (2036796) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:36AM (#44663657) Journal
    Don't worry about the government spying on you, it may just be that special someone listening to all your calls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:43AM (#44663707)

    Spying on love interests is one thing, but spying on innocent children to plan sexually assaulting them is a different category. It's happened before [bbc.co.uk], and I don't understand how people can still defend these monstrous surveillence activities.

    Why won't someone think of the children when it's finally appropriate?

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:49AM (#44663753) Homepage

    So ladies, that boyfriend you have, the one with the steady career in government, who seemed to understand you like no man ever had before...

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      lol or as Smiley says re control at controls funeral "he went to his grave with his wife believing he was mid ranking official at the coal board" or in Spooks (MI5) Sir harry piece commented "oh i told my ex wife when we signed the bans in church"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:53AM (#44663769)

    No need to worry. US presidents don't lie. Especially not the Nobel Peace prize winning ones. So it's Ok. Because if you can't trust the government... Well then we really are really screwed.

  • by arobatino (46791) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:57AM (#44663781)

    Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

    Which is exactly what you'd expect if the probability of getting caught is close to zero and the true number of cases is much larger.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And it seems that the boys who work at Ft. Meade may have
    been breaking this law.

    Of course they are above the law, aren't they ? Time will tell, just
    as it did with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Goering, and the rest.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:03AM (#44663819)
    Corrupt is as corrupt does. They've already demonstrated a profound moral bankruptcy and a willingness to collectively serve only themselves, this just a matter of scale.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:11AM (#44663867) Homepage Journal

    But what about intercepting phone sex calls of troops with their loved ones? And not just intercepted, shared between them when the conversation was hot.

    And they did that with soldiers, in an environment where their superiors were more or less aware of what they were doing, so they restricted themselves in what they could do. What kind of respect you can expect from them? What kind of respect should they (as people and as institutions) deserve?

    Oh, this is for your safety, so all is justified, except that the most monitored countries includes China, Russia, France, Germany, Japan, and Brazil, This is more about starting a war (and/or stealing IP) than defending from terrorists.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:12AM (#44663877)

    "Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported." So their "significant care to prevent any abuses" consists primarily of "tell us when you've done something bad."

    If they actually had strong internal checks in place, the majority of abuses would be detected by those systems, not by self reporting.

  • by dicobalt (1536225) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:17AM (#44663923)
    I didn't mean to be so correct.
  • I keep saying setting rules agents "are supposed to follow" isn't good enough, and should be constitutionally invalid in the computer age.

    The rules against warrantless searches have to do with political spying, not mundane spying, even on girlfriends by jackasses. If they can get away with this, operatives working for someone powerful can get away with tapping an opponent's phones.

    They need security software that cannot be bypassed that logs everything in incorruptible logs for future review, and auto-stor

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jpublic (3023069)

      They need security software that cannot be bypassed that logs everything in incorruptible logs for future review, and auto-stored at multiple sites without delete communication (someone at any given site cannot send out a signal to alter or delete logs at other sites.)

      No. We need to get rid of the entire organization and get rid of the system they have in place to wiretap to begin with.

  • by Tippler (3027557) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:23AM (#44663973)
    "administrative action or termination." ...OR termination? Every single one of them should have been fired at the least. If I looked up an ex girlfriend on the electronic medical record system I'm logged into right now, I would be subject to a $50,000 dollar fine and a year in prison even after being fired ( AMA HIPAA penalties page [ama-assn.org]). This kind of abuse of access to privileged information similar to a HIPAA violation, except double illegal since most of the surveillance has no legal basis either.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:27AM (#44663999)

      And if you don't comply when an FBI agent sends you a NSL asking for the medical records of his ex-girlfriend, you also go to jail.

    • Administrative action is probably revocation of security clearance. That's worse than firing for these guys because it's end of career.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:20PM (#44667323)

      I work in the medical field also and have personally seen it happen. We had someone who was in a position of IT power and had been with the organization awhile. He was caught looking at things he shouldn't have been and was immediately fired. This was a guy whose job security - before this incident - seemed rock solid, no previous incidents (to my knowledge which admittedly might not be perfect in this matter). Just one day there and the next day gone. He wasn't even allowed to clear out his office right then. They had him come back another day and - under a careful eye to make sure he only took his own stuff - let him clear out his office.

      The more power (and access to information counts as "power") you have, the steeper the penalties should be for abusing that power. If the NSA is going to have access to nearly everything whenever they want (something I think they shouldn't have), they should have STRICT penalties for misusing said access. They should have systems that double-check access and the first time you search for something you shouldn't, you're FIRED!

  • by ljw1004 (764174) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:32AM (#44664047)

    This isn't a "latest twist in the NSA saga". It's a transparent PR fluff piece.

    Obviously the PR division at the NSA figured out a plan to trivialize the revelations. John DeLong at his press conference comes out with "Oh yes, once or twice in the past decade we have broken the rules, but it's been for lighthearded laughable trivial matters like LOVEINT. Ha ha ha, what a joke. My bad. We're all good now, right?"

    Of course the media will lap this up. And it distracts attention from the real systematic unconstitutional behavior of the NSA, and the fact that the NSA's overseers themselves believe their oversight to be inadequate.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Actually the media is more likely to rave about the peeping toms and stalkers working for the NSA, I think.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @01:06PM (#44664593)

      Obviously the PR division at the NSA figured out a plan to trivialize the revelations.

      If that's their plan, it is a stupid one. For most of the population spying on politicians and fat-cats is unrelatable. But having a lover break trust and spy on you is something just about everybody has experienced be it snooping through your phone, your email, or even just the stuff in your house.

      One of the big reasons the public is apathetic to the NSA is that most people just don't see how it could ever affect them personally. With these revelations the NSA has made it crystal clear to the general public just how "icky" the NSA can be.

      It might not be the best reason to be pissed off about the NSA, but it is the kind of thing that most people can immediately feel in their gut and that counts for a lot in this fight.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:38AM (#44664083) Journal

    Still just a distraction from STOCKINT. Follow the money. The first time I considered such massive surveillance, front-running market events was what came to mind. This is just like anything else in politics. Get people thinking about sex to distract them from the real crimes.

    • by ron_ivi (607351)
      And if I understand right - is doing it to foreign markets even legal by design?
    • by Tom (822)

      It's not about stocks. Stocks are boring to the government.

      It's about patents, technology, tech secrets, major trade deals, contracts, and so on.

      Guess which European company has the most massive interest in security and installs six-digit hardware encryption routers in even minor switching rooms? No, it's not a bank. It's not a stock exchange, either. It's Airbus.

      Here in Europe, it's been an open secret for almost two decades that our "american friends" are doing massive amounts of economic espionage on us.

  • Sex is the key (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:38AM (#44664085)

    Clinton murdered plenty of people in a cruise missile attack in Sudan - US reaction - Yawn.
    Clinton had consensual sex with a willing female - US Reaction - Impeach, impeach, impeach.

  • The Police (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dripdry (1062282) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:55AM (#44664189) Journal

    Wow. "Every Breath You Take" was NEVER more true (and creepy) than now.

    Shiver

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:58AM (#44664209) Journal

    Teenage boys are horny. Film at 11:00.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0AgBecuFdU [youtube.com]

    You've got guys listening in on ex-wives, dropping in on calls from soldiers overseas, checking out what movie stars are up to...

    Now, to be fair, a lot of this (as others have pointed out) is just what you would expect from a group of people given that kind of power, but the details match up so perfectly, I wonder if Sorkin was tipped off by someone.

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @12:10PM (#44664289)
    How Senator Mitch McConnell [go.com] got his information about Ashley Judd's private medical data for a slander campaign; and not see a corollary of the humanity that is the NSA?

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