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NSA Abused Wiretap Rights: Intercepted, Shared Private Calls Of Americans

from the funny-how-that-works dept

Now that Congress has totally capitulated and allowed the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program to go on without question, it should surprise no one that leaks are coming out highlighting how the program is regularly abused to spy on everyday Americans who are calling North America from the Middle East. In fact, two separate “intercept operators” have apparently come forward separately, and talked about listening in on perfectly innocent calls between two Americans — exactly the scenario that the government insisted never happened. Specifically, General Hayden stated that conversations between Americans were not being intercepted: “It’s not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it.”

However, according to the operators, it appears to be very much for the heck of it. Not only were calls between Americans listened to and recorded on a regular basis, the “good parts” (i.e., phone sex) were sent around to other operators to listen to as well. One of the operators said that on a regular basis messages would be sent around with messages like: “Hey, check this out. There’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out.” Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. When you give someone the power to spy on calls with absolutely no oversight, it’s going to get abused. It’s just that simple.

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Comments on “NSA Abused Wiretap Rights: Intercepted, Shared Private Calls Of Americans”

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Grae says:

Re: Re:

Can you cite a valid source for this statement? Or are you just going to weakly pass off your opinions as fact?

The Internet has actually enabled action of the people like never before; there are fewer and fewer groups that are left out of the loop, leaks of information like this one are harder if not impossible to control thanks to the Internet.

Imagine if this sort of thing happened in the pre-Internet era? The news report would have very likely been suppressed and no one would have ever known.

It really seems that you’re just projecting; I’m willing to bet anything that YOU are one of those people who rages and then does nothing, using the excuse that “no one else bothers either” to give yourself the OK for being a non-participant.

LBD says:

Re: Re:

Depends on the person. I wrote my senator. Sadly: It was less effective then shouting on an internet forum.

The clearly form response letter I got back didn’t address my complaint. t said, basically ‘don’t worry they promised not to spy on american citizens’ Paraphrased because it was about page and a half long.

MAtt says:


For starters, I don’t doubt the basic idea of what the two former service members are saying. I do seriously doubt that this represents an actual threat to our civil rights. We all wring our hands at the evil government tapping the phones…Much more serious problems are out there (outlawing words and gestures unattached to actions, or assigning identical actions towards different people differing levels of severity), but we usually think those sound like good ideas. And I wonder if these service members actually read the non-disclosure agreement they signed upon leaving the military.

The best thing this article does is represent the desire of news outlets to be the first to report on something.

And just for fun:
[from the article]
NSA awarded Adrienne Kinne a NSA Joint Service Achievement Medal in 2003…
That’s the “hey, we’re sorry you don’t deserve the Meritorious Service Medal” award. Meaningless. (I know, I have two.)

Hypo says:

What age of paranoia have you entered? How full of self importance are you? Those that criticize the government for trying to protect its citizens were and will be the same people complaining that the government didn’t do enough when the next terrorist attack comes – and it will come. There are 300 million Americans and a handful of people that work for the NSA, FBI etc., Do you honestly believe that your fellow Americans that listen to these calls care about your pathetic phone sex or pillow talk? Our country needs to do everything it can to protect us from attack. Stop and think about the consequences. When Iran develops its nuclear weapon and delivers it to Hezbollah and detonates it in a major city will you still maintain that your privacy was worth it?

I agree with you on this much – those that were responsible for listening to calls and didn’t properly perform their duties by taking time away from their important job to do what was alleged in the story should be summarily fired. Our nation’s security does not need people that will abuse their power.

Grae says:

Re: Re:

Same question to you as I ask Urban: can you cite research or a study which backs up your “those that criticize the govt complain when the govt fails to protect” statement? I see this claim ALL THE TIME, and yet I’ve never seen any proof that this is actually the case.

Also: “and it will come.” and “When Iran develops its nuclear weapon”? Really?

You’re just spouting Bush Doctrine fear mongering talking points. You and everyone else who has dragged us into this War On A Noun are the TRUE terrorists. Your chorus of fear and the regret we will feel if we don’t submit our freedom to the great protectors in the government are the true voices of oppression and destruction of our great nation.

If you were a true patriot of this country and had a proper understanding of its history, you’d know that privacy and freedom are two sides of the same coin, and you cannot take away privacy without taking away freedom.

And if we’re going to burn our freedom to protect it from the terrorists then what are we fighting for?

Teknosapien says:

Re: Those willing to give up liberty for security deserve niether and will lose both

Ben Franklin, and the actual quote has a couple varients, including:
People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Anonymous Coward says:

“What age of paranoia have you entered? How full of self importance are you? Those that criticize the government for trying to protect its citizens were and will be the same people complaining that the government didn’t do enough when the next terrorist attack comes – and it will come…..blah, blah, blah”

I thought this was neocon at first! LOL

Bush has already murdered more civilians than Bin Laden. Can I listen in on his phone calls?

Andrew Yu-Jen Wang says:

Bush should be locked up.

George W. Bush’s sentence-by-sentence speaking skills are deteriorating. Apparently, this may be due to a mental illness called “presenile dementia.” Bush may or may not be secretly still drinking heavily. Bush lied, and thousands of people died. Bush suffers from narcissism and megalomania. Moreover, Bush has been arrested three times. Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct. Bush was arrested for stealing. Bush was also arrested for a serious crime—driving under the influence of alcohol. Bush unlawfully wiretapped United States citizens. There are reasons to believe that Bush suffers from a learning disability. Bush’s learning disability would explain a lot of things. All in all, Bush is a severely mentally ill individual. Bush is not fit to be the president of the United States.

Bush should be locked up.

Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA

Anonymous Coward says:

I stirred up the hornet's nest

I don’t know who to address first. Let’s start with Elossah who thinks I’m saying we should give up on the Bill of Rights and quoting Franklin saying I deserve neither liberty or freedom. Well, if you read the Bill of Rights you will not find anything about the right to privacy. I think the 3rd Amend is as close as you will get – No soldier shall be quartered without consent. To try to be fair, while there is no specifically enumerated right to privacy in the Constitution, I think we all agree that privacy is a right. But put the right to privacy on a continuum with freedom on the opposite end. Sure it is a trade-off. The stakes have increased exponentially since the time of Franklin. Today, a small group is able to kill a million. I ask you Mike, and the others, how have you been hurt; how has your privacy been violated? Have you lost money? Have you been blackmailed or extorted because someone listened to your phone call? And you Grae, who is looking for PROOF? Show me some proof that someone has been damaged by an invasion of their privacy in the last 10 years? Are you all saying that the government shouldn’t be listening to OVERSEAS calls to U.S. citizens in an effort to identify those who wish us harm? Are you not willing to accept that one of your calls is accidentally listened to knowing that the next call that is listened to helps prevent an act of violence on your family?

And Elohssa, you talk about the 4th Amendment. Are you suggesting that the 4th Amendment applies to EVERYONE? Because it doesn’t. Do the terrorists deserve our 4th Amendment rights? Let me remind you that the terrorists never considered the 4th Amendment rights of Daniel Pearl or Nick Berg, did they? They didn’t consider the 4th Amendment rights of the 3,000 victims on 9/11.

Elohssa says:

Re: I stirred up the hornet's nest

Hypo, if you agree that privacy is a right, then how can you be an apologist for the Federal government intruding on the privacy of American citizens with no oversight?

I think it’s pretty clear that the 4th applies to all U.S. citizens. That would include citizens who are terrorists, but this can be bypassed through a court. That’s a warrant. They aren’t hard to get, but apparently too much bother for the current administration. I’m not even opposed to the old 72 hour rule, where they could begin monitoring immediately as long as they received the warrant within 72 hours. THAT wasn’t enough for this administration, because they want to monitor U.S. citizens in the absence of probable cause UNACCEPTABLE.

I think overseas call with one party as a non-U.S. citizen is acceptable. That is the line. Communications between two U.S. citizen (regardless of their physical locations) should be protected by the 4th. Bush is crossing the line, because he is not getting warrants.

I will happily die free, rather than live safe in a fear cage. The Federal Govt. can’t protect me or anyone, because they can never operate as efficiently as a small group of dedicated professionals. There have been many public demonstrations detailing the myriad techniques used to smuggle goods, and we have large and porous borders. You correctly mentioned that the Feds are a relatively small group. What kinda of black magic are they using to stop anyone who REALLY wants to from slipping into our country undetected, with just about anything they care to bring?

Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, as sad at there fates were, knew what they were getting into. I imagine the danger was part of the attraction, for them. I take special precautions from getting kidnapped in a foreign country full of religious crazies, myself.

Easily Amused says:

No good short-term answer

This is an internet discussion, not a job interview… you can leave off your CV next time Mr. Wang. Even if it were truly impressive it wouldn’t matter – I could sign my post with when I finished post-grad from M.I.T. and it would not make my opinion any more important or accurate than any others.

I don’t think W has any disorders or disabilities, what he has is “underachieving party-boy from family with money and power” syndrome. Now that he is on the way out, neither he nor his handlers seem to give to much of a damn about what he says or does. McCain also suffers from this syndrome, and has about the same grasp on almost every aspect of domestic and foreign policy that Bush does. Obama, while more intelligent and much more well-spoken, has never actually DONE anything, his entire career has been about getting his hand on the next rung of the ladder. Both of the VP candidates are laughably bad in different ways as well.

No matter which side wins this election, you can rest assured that this spying program and many other craptastic Bush policies will continue unimpeded. The Democrats will be too busy trying to set up new social entitlements and will need to give the hawks some bones to chew on to keep their mouths shut. The Republicans will continue to expand their Big Brother agenda and claim that every day passing without a bomb going off in the USA is proof that domestic spying works. Business as usual.

Meanwhile, the people who REALLY try to get the nation back on track as a sovereign nation and citizen of the world- such as Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich will get swept under the rug by the vast majority of the public because Joe Six-pack says “gosh darnit, thinking for myself is hard, I’d rather have my opinions spoon fed to me by CNN and Fox News”. The knee-jerk reactionary policies that are so bad for the country that the creators have to put cuddly names on them to make the lazy and/or stupid vote for them, such as the PATRIOT Act, PRO-IP, etc. will continue to be written and passed until people demand better from their leaders.

Unfortunately I don’t see that happening any time soon.

TD Reader says:

We’re not in as much danger from terrorists as the government would have us believe. In every conflict since the Spanish-American War, the US has covertly goaded and provoked the other side into attacking first (or simply allowed them to do so) as an excuse to enter the war. Why? Well, as the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition in Star Trek state, “War is good for business.” Quite true. Creating the enemies you need, then turning public opinion in favor of war, is an old practice with a long history going back to the time of the Roman Empire.

– Just prior to the Spanish-American War, Gen. Zachary Taylor rode up and down the Rio Grande with his men, deliberately goading the Spanish into attacking first, as his orders specified.

– The sinking of the Lusitania brought the US into WWI, but what isn’t widely known is that the ship was deliberately sent without an escort, and along a route where German U-boats were known to be.

– FDR knew in advance of Pearl Harbor and deliberately allowed it to happen. Also, US intelligence at the end of the war knew Japan was ready to surrender even before the A-bomb, but dropped it anyway as a message to Russia.

And so it’s gone ever since, including the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, and 9/11 (which loads of documented evidence proves that the US knew about well in advance but did nothing to stop, because of a desire for a new Pearl Harbor as an excuse to go into Iraq and Afganhistan, thereby to secure the oil supplies there and the pipeline across Afghanistan to India).

http://www.fromthewilderness.com has all the information and details.

Hypo says:


The 4th Amendment protects us against search and seizure. It is technically different than the right to privacy. The right to privacy has been interpreted through the 14th Amendment’s due process clause and the relevant case law is Roe v Wade (1973) and Whalen v Roe (1977). I guess technically our whole discussion here is about our right as Americans to be free from search and seizure except upon issue of a warrant based on probable cause.

The surveillance program authorizes the intercept of calls originating OVERSEAS. It is critical that we all understand and agree that calls originating OVERSEAS by a non U.S. citizen is the authorized program. Can you agree to that?

Many on this board seem to think that calls are being listened to between everyday innocent Americans right here at home. That’s not the program.

What I will grant you is this – violating a U.S. citizens privacy without a warrant does not make us any safer.

Will you grant that we have the right if not duty to intercept calls originating overseas from non U.S. citizens? Will you support that?

You are further correct when you say that collecting too much data can make it difficult to find the right info. But you must also understand that you will NEVER find the right info if you never collect anything.

You say – Thus we should give up all our principles and sink as low as those terrorists?

Absolutely not! But the terrorists do not deserve the protections our Constitution affords you and I. Do you agree?

Hypo says:


I think we are in agreement here. I agree with you that the line should be drawn at intercepting OVERSEAS calls where one party in a non-US citizen. Two US citizens should require a warrant. Unfortunately, there is one HUGE practical problem. When a call is placed to an overseas number or received from an overseas number, there is no way to know if the caller is a US citizen – since the caller is overseas it must be presumed that they are not a US citizen.

The AUTHORIZED Terrorist Surveillance Program is directed at overseas calls where one party is located overseas.

Is there evidence, beyond some disgruntled linguists, to show that intercepts were conducted domestically and not conducted overseas? The purview of the NSA and its collection efforts are overseas. Domestic intercepts are generally conducted by the FBI and governed by the FISA statute. I am quite certain that intercepts of two US citizens under the FISA laws receive immense amounts of scrutiny and review before being authorized.

And as for those porous borders – we need to start by enforcing the laws we already have rather than waste time debating new laws. You are right, the borders are a significant national security problem.

Hypo says:


In my posts I hope you noticed that I didn’t once mention republican or democrat, Bush, Clinton, McCain, or Obama.

This issue is not about them or about politics it is about us as Americans, our security and the security of our children.

I am tired of seeing one party disregard the best interests of our country for political gain. If one party has a good idea the other party will refuse to support it because they don’t want the other side to get the credit. We will destroy ourselves if that continues.

We must come together as Americans and put aside the “my team your team” mentality. And it doesn’t start in Washington – it starts with YOU! You must be willing to engage in these discussions with open mind and not as a partisan. Be able to question your own beliefs and respect a person who holds a different belief – that’s the American way and what can make us so great.

armadilloman says:


“We must come together as Americans and put aside the “my team your team” mentality. And it doesn’t start in Washington – it starts with YOU! You must be willing to engage in these discussions with open mind and not as a partisan.”

How about we start by re-vamping the electoral system to include more candidates? Eliminate the traditional two party system, and allow only 6-8 weeks of campaigning? There are some good altermate candidates out there but the current system is designed to eliminate them.

RWE says:

Illegal Wiretapping

Consider this for a moment, at any time, even in the best of times, our government is run by primarily by incompetents and fools, hired not for their skill or critical thinking ability but because of who they know and what party they have allegiance to. The current administration is run by a man who actually believes God is talking to him and planning strategy for him to fight the war on terror and the financial crisis. If he applied for a job at a hardware store the owner would call a mental health team in. This man and the other lunatics who surround him are the ones who have now added to their list of wars, the war on independent thought and privacy. This has nothing, zero, nil, zip, nada to do with protecting us from terror attacks. Our intelligence systems are run by the same quacks that put the ignorant prince in power. Another attack may or may not come but preventing it will have nothing to do with illegal wiretapping of the phone calls of Americans. Instead of building fences at our borders to keep the immigrants out. we should build fences around the White House and the Congress and the corporate board rooms. These are the people who are killing us right now. Do you really think it’s OK for a phone company to solicit your business as a customer with promises of quality and integrity and then give your phone calls to the NSA without telling you? What America do you live in?

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