NEWS

US May Have Illegally Listened in on Citizens' Calls

By Laura Spadanuta

Two former military intercept officers are alleging that personnel at the National Security Agency listened in on and shared personal phone calls made by Americans living abroad. 

The Washington Post reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into the allegations that NSA employees "improperly eavesdropped on the phone calls of hundreds of Americans overseas, including aid workers and U.S. military personnel talking to their spouses at home."  Some of the listening was done as part of the eavesdropping program to catch terrorists, according to the article.

The article also states that the "chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), yesterday termed the accusations "extremely disturbing" and said his staff had begun gathering information and may consider holding hearings. "Any time there is an allegation regarding abuse of the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, it is a very serious matter," he said.

It was also reported that:

The alleged intercepts were described by two linguists who said they witnessed the activity while assigned to the NSA's giant eavesdropping station known as Back Hall at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Adrienne Kinne, 31, a former Army reservist, was an intercept operator at the site from 2001 to 2003, while Navy linguist David Murphee Faulk, 39, held a similar position from 2003 to 2007. Both provided accounts to investigative journalist James Bamford for his book "The Shadow Factory," due for release next week, and also in interviews with ABC News.  Both said the NSA's intercept program was intended to pick up intelligence about terrorists and their plans -- which sometimes happened. But the operators also would frequently tap into phone calls by Americans living abroad -- usually satellite phone calls made from the Middle East, or routine calls made by U.S. military personnel from phones in Baghdad's Green Zone, they said in interviews broadcast yesterday.

A U.S. official told the Post that internal investigations could not substantiate the allegations. However, he or she also noted that it is legal for the United States to monitor conversations of government employees in war zones, although it is not legal for them to keep or share conversations that are not related to intelligence.

 

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