The revelations detailing the extent of the National Security Agency’s espionage capabilities raises the specter that their powers could be misused to target Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism.
In fact, allegations of such misconduct already exist. Here are two examples where anti-terrorism powers granted to law enforcement were allegedly used to target American citizens not engaged in terrorism.
1.) National Security Agency staffers allegedly listened to personal calls of Americans abroad
Two former intercept officers who worked at the NSA facility in Fort Gordon, Georgia told ABC News’s Brian Ross in 2008 that they and their colleagues listened in on phone calls home of hundreds of Americans living and working abroad.
“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept, and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” Adrienne Kinne, one of the whistle-blowers and a former Army Reserves Arab linguist, told ABC News.
The calls, according to Kinne, were “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”
Kinne made the allegations after becoming a rabid anti-Iraq war activist, serving on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Navy Arab linguist David Murfee Faulk told ABC News a similar story. He said that he and his colleagues listened in on the calls of American officers living in the Green Zone in Baghdad.
Faulk described the personal nature of many of the calls, and how he and his colleagues would encourage each other to listen into a call where “there’s good phone sex” or “some colonel making pillow talk.”
Kinne said when concerns were raised with her superiors about the nature of the calls they were listening in on, she was told “your job is not to question.”
In 2008, the NSA told The New York Times, “Some of these allegations have been investigated and found to be unsubstantiated; others are in the investigation process.”