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'No Place to Hide' from NSA, Then or Now

September 30, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Bad news for pandaphiles: The National Zoo’s “PandaCam” will go dark during a government shutdown.

However, the federal government’s power to keep an eye on the American people will continue to grow — it’s an “essential service,” apparently.

Sunday brought yet another revelation from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Since 2010, the New York Times reports, the NSA has been exploiting its vast databases to create “sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”

The federal government’s power to keep an eye on the American people continues to grow.”

On Friday, the Hill published a document from the NSA inspector general providing details on several occasions in which analysts spied on current or former paramours.

The NSA’s informal nickname for this is “LOVEINT.” In one case, for example, “on the subject’s first day of access to the SIGINT system, he queried six email addresses belonging to a former girlfriend, a U.S. person.” He got a demotion and two months’ reduced pay.

In 2008, a former Navy intercept operator stationed at a NSA facility described how his colleagues used to pass around highlights of soldiers’ phone calls home from Iraq.

The word would go out that “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny.”

LOVEINT abuses are comparatively small-time, but they hint at the dangers endemic to our burgeoning Surveillance State: Information is power; the modern NSA’s capabilities are indescribably powerful and power corrupts.

Just last week, a government declassification panel released new information about the Cold War-era NSA spying on Americans.

Under “Project Minaret,” watchlisted Americans had their international phone calls and telegrams monitored by the NSA, and “even the most unlikely names would become targets perhaps because they were prominent, influential, and had expressed what the president considered subversive thoughts.”

The newly declassified intel reveals that among the targets were Martin Luther King Jr., boxer Muhammad Ali, New York Times D.C. bureau chief Tom Wicker, Washington Post humorist Art Buchwald and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, R-Tenn.

Baker’s presence on the watch list is a mystery, but the first four were vocal critics of the Vietnam War.

Much of what we know about Minaret comes from reports compiled by the 1975-76 Senate Select Committee on intelligence abuses, popularly known as the “Church Committee” after committee chairman Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho. It turns out …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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