Posted Oct. 10, 2008 – The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into charges by two former U.S. military linguists that the super-secret National Security Agency routinely eavesdropped on the private and intimated phone calls of overseas American military officers, journalists and aid workers.
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NSA interceptors purportedly shared some intercepts of highly personal conversations, including "phone sex," reports The Associated Press. If true, the charges could re-ignite a political firestorm over the administration's post-Sept. 11 "data mining" operations and its efforts to collect vast amounts of information on Americans' tax, medical and travel records; credit card purchases; e-mails and other information.
President Bush and other senior officials have repeatedly asserted that after the Sept. 11 attacks; the NSA only monitored the private communications of Americans who were suspected of links to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups without court orders.
The allegations follow the release Tuesday of a study by a government advisory group that questions how useful communications intercepts and another technique, known as data mining, are at ferreting out terrorist plots.
"The information sought by analysts must be filtered out of the huge quantity of data available (the needle in the haystack problem)," says two-year, 352-page study by the National Research Council for the Department of Homeland Security. "Terrorist groups will make calculated efforts to conceal their identity and mask their behaviors, and will use various strategies such as encryption, code words, and multiple identities to obfuscate the data they are generating and exchanging," the report says according to The New York Times. "Even under the pressure of threats as serious as terrorism, the privacy rights and civil liberties that are the cherished core values of our nation must not be destroyed," the report warns.
An ABC News report Thursday quoted two former military linguists saying that the country's largest intelligence agency routinely recorded calls to homes and offices by hundreds of American military officers, journalists and aid workers who were posted in the Middle East between 2001 and 2007. One of the two, Adrienne Kinne, 31, an Army Reserve Arabic linguist, first spoke publicly about the alleged monitoring of American journalists and aid workers in Iraq on the independent radio program "Democracy Now!" in May. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the allegations "extremely disturbing." He said in a statement that the panel is examining the matter and has asked the administration for "all relevant information."