By Kevin Poulsen
The NSA has released some details of 12 incidents in which analysts used their access to America’s high-tech surveillance infrastructure to spy on girlfriends, boyfriends, and random people they met in social settings. It’s a fascinating look at what happens when the impulse that drives average netizens to look up long-ago ex-lovers on Facebook is mated with the power to fire up a wiretap with a few keystrokes.
One such analyst working on foreign soil started surveillance on nine phone numbers belonging to women over five years, from 1998 to 2003. He “listened to collected phone conversations,” according to a letter from the NSA’s Inspector General to Senator Charles Grassley released today. The unnamed spy conducted “call chaining” on one of the numbers — to determine who had called, or been called from, the phone — and then started surveillance on two of those numbers as well.
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In the wake of the traumatic attacks on 9/11, Congress rushed to pass the PATRIOT Act, which greatly expanded the ability of the U.S. government to spy on American citizens.
Since the leaks by Edward Snowden, even the original author of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, has said that the authority claimed by the government to spy on Americans far exceeds the intent of the law.
The leaks and recent admissions about NSA programs have pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding government spying and created an opening for us to take action. Now’s the time to push hard and get members of Congress on the record and show them that there is grassroots momentum to take on this fight.
Recently, Congressman Rush Holt, an outspoken advocate of reining in the growing surveillance state, introduced legislation to repeal the PATRIOT Act and restore our constitutionally protected civil liberties.
Tell Congress: Join Rep. Holt and fight to repeal the PATRIOT Act.
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