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article image12 cases of NSA surveillance technology abuse revealed

By Andrew Ellis     Sep 28, 2013 in World
Earlier this week a letter sent to a Congress member from NSA's Inspector General revealed that NSA employees had abused the agency's powerful surveillance technology.
The Guardian reported that a letter from the NSA's Inspector General to Iowa representative Senator Chuck Grassley revealed 12 cases where the agency's surveillance technology was abused by its employees.
In one case, according to Politico, a foreign woman employed by the United States suspected a person she was in a relationship with, who was an NSA employee, was overhearing her phone conversations. An investigation by the NSA later revealed that the person used the surveillance system to pull up the woman's phone calls from 1998 to 2003.
CNN reported that there was another case in 2004 where a women employee spied on a phone number from her husband's cell phone she didn't recognize because she thought it meant he was having an affair.
In another case that didn't involve an employee's personal life, Politico reported that an employee "improperly" used the surveillance to gain more information on the relative of a foreign intelligence target.
Another case involved a member of the US military who used the system to spy on the email addresses of six of his former girlfriends on the first day he was given access, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian also reported that a quarter of the abuse cases were only discovered after the employees responsible confessed. In seven of the cases, the ones responsible either resigned or retired before any kind of disciplinary action could be taken.
The letter, written by Dr. George Ellard, only listed the cases that were investigated and then "substantiated," or validated, by his office, according to The Guardian.
CNN reported that six of the cases were brought to the Department of Justice, but no charges appear to have been brought on.
When disciplinary action was taken, according to The Guardian, sometimes all it involved was a written warning. Politico reported that other punishments included reduced pay, revocation of classified access, demotion, and suspension.
The Guardian also reported that in a congressional hearing on Thursday, NSA director General Keith Alexander told senators on the intelligence committee that the cases were "with very rare exception" unintentional.
"The press claimed evidence of thousands of privacy violations. This is false and misleading," he said.
According to The Guardian, General Alexander pointed out that the agency's independent inspector general reported only 12 validated cases of surveillance abuse over 10 years, which meant "essentially one per year."
He also added that the NSA had a privacy compliance program that anyone who is a leader of a large and complex organization would be proud of, according to The Guardian.
According to CNN, Senator Grassley said this about the report and abuse cases:
“I appreciate the transparency that the Inspector General has provided to the American people. We shouldn’t tolerate even one instance of misuse of this program. Robust oversight of the program must be completed to ensure that both national security and the Constitution are protected.”
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