Inside Account of US Eavesdropping on Americans

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ABC News

Inside Account of US Eavesdropping on Americans

U.S. Officers' "Phone Sex" Intercepted, Recorded, Shared Across NSA Listening Post

by
Brian Ross, Vic Walter, and Anna Schecter

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence
officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been
eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according
to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant
National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

"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," said
Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned
to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon
from November 2001 to 2003.

Watch the video.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private
things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated
with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid
workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called
their offices or homes in the United States.

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee
Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into
hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone
from late 2003 to November 2007.

"Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses,
sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following
another," said Faulk.

The accounts of the two former intercept operators, who have never
met and did not know of the other's allegations, provide the first
inside look at the day to day operations of the huge and controversial
US terrorist surveillance program.

"There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of
our citizens are treated with respect," said President Bush at a news
conference this past February.

But the accounts of the two whistleblowers, which could not be
independently corroborated, raise serious questions about how much
respect is accorded those Americans whose conversations are intercepted
in the name of fighting terrorism.

US Soldier's 'Phone Sex' Intercepted, Shared

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort
Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had
been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts"
that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good
phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really
funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and
we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks
in Back Hall's "smoke pit," but ended up feeling badly about his
actions.

"I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me," he said.

In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden,
now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are
not 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," Gen. Hayden testified.

He was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), "Are you just doing this because you just want to pry into people's lives?"

"No, sir," General Hayden replied.

Asked for comment about the ABC News report and accounts of intimate
and private phone calls of military officers being passed around, a US
intelligence official said "all employees of the US government" should
expect that their telephone conversations could be monitored as part of
an effort to safeguard security and "information assurance."

"They certainly didn't consent to having interceptions of their
telephone sex conversations being passed around like some type of
fraternity game," said Jonathon Turley, a constitutional law professor
at George Washington University who has testified before Congress on
the country's warrantless surveillance program.

"This story is to surveillance law what Abu Ghraib was to prison law," Turley said.

Listening to Aid Workers

NSA awarded Adrienne Kinne a NSA Joint Service Achievement Medal in
2003 at the same time she says she was listening to hundreds of private
conversations between Americans, including many from the International
Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

"We knew they were working for these aid organizations," Kinne told
ABC News. "They were identified in our systems as 'belongs to the
International Red Cross' and all these other organizations. And yet,
instead of blocking these phone numbers we continued to collect on
them," she told ABC News.

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders, Michael Goldfarb, said:
"The abuse of humanitarian action through intelligence gathering for
military or political objectives, threatens the ability to assist
populations and undermines the safety of humanitarian aid workers."

Both Kinne and Faulk said their military commanders rebuffed
questions about listening in to the private conversations of Americans
talking to Americans.

"It was just always, that , you know, your job is not to question.
Your job is to collect and pass on the information," Kinne said.

Some times, Kinne and Faulk said, the intercepts helped identify possible terror planning in Iraq and saved American lives.

"IED's were disarmed before they exploded, that people who were
intending to harm US forces were captured ahead of time," Faulk said.

NSA job evaluation forms show he regularly received high marks for
job performance. Faulk left his job as a newspaper reporter in
Pittsburgh to join the Navy after 9/11.

Kinne says the success stories underscored for her the waste of time
spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the
terrorist needle in the haystack.

"By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans
and aid organizations, it's almost like they're making the haystack
bigger and it's harder to find that piece of information that might
actually be useful to somebody," she said. "You're actually hurting our
ability to effectively protect our national security."

The NSA: "The Shadow Factory"

Both former intercept operators came forward at first to speak with
investigative journalist Jim Bamford for a book on the NSA, "The Shadow
Factory," to be published next week.

"It's extremely rare," said Bamford, who has written two previous
books on the NSA, including the landmark "Puzzle Palace" which first
revealed the existence of the super secret spy agency.

"Both of them felt that what they were doing was illegal and
improper, and immoral, and it shouldn't be done, and that's what forces
whistleblowers."

A spokesman for General Hayden, Mark Mansfield, said: "At NSA, the
law was followed assiduously. The notion that General Hayden sanctioned
or tolerated illegalities of any sort is ridiculous on its face." 

The director of the NSA, Lt. General Keith B. Alexander, declined to
directly answer any of the allegations made by the whistleblowers.

In a written statement, Gen. Alexander said: "We have been entrusted
to protect and
defend the nation with integrity, accountability, and respect for the
law. As Americans, we take this obligation seriously. Our employees
work tirelessly for the good of the nation, and serve this country
proudly."

 

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