The Senate Intelligence Committee is examining allegations by two former U.S. military linguists that the super-secret National Security Agency routinely eavesdropped on the private telephone calls of American military officers, journalists and aid workers.
NSA interceptors purportedly shared some intercepts of highly personal conversations, including “phone sex.”
If the allegations are true, they could reignite a political firestorm over the administration's post-9-11 eavesdropping operations and its efforts to collect vast quantities of data about Americans' tax, medical and travel records; credit card purchases; e-mails and other information.
The allegations follow the release Tuesday of a study by a government advisory group that questions how useful communications intercepts and another technique known as data mining are at ferreting out terrorist plots.
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“The information sought by analysts must be filtered out of the huge quantity of data available (the needle in the haystack problem),” says the two-year, 352-page study by the National Research Council for the Department of Homeland Security.
An ABC News report Thursday quoted two former military linguists saying that the country's largest intelligence agency routinely recorded calls to homes and offices by hundreds of American military officers, journalists and aid workers who were posted in the Middle East between 2001 and 2007.
A comment from the White House wasn't immediately available, and no one in the NSA press office answered the phone Thursday afternoon.
The ABC News story quoted former Navy Arabic linguist David Murfee Faulk, 39, as saying that he and other intercept operators at the NSA facility at Fort Gordon, Ga., monitored telephone calls by Americans in Baghdad's Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy, U.S. military headquarters, Iraqi government offices and some news organizations are located.