Barack Obama promised us that the National Security Agency’s gigantic military electronic surveillance network has not been used to spy on Americans. The Obama Administration has also insisted that the NSA’s electronic spying efforts are 100 percent free of abuse, and that any time Americans’ private information has been searched and seized, it’s been due to technical glitches.
A pair of revelations about the NSA that came to light over the weekend provide yet more evidence that these statements from the Obama Administration are false.
In one instance, we found out that the NSA has been spying on diplomats in the United Nations office building. Der Spiegel obtained this information from documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA is supposed to, as a military spy agency, under the FISA Amendments Act, restrict its spying to foreign targets outside of U.S. borders. The United Nations office building is not a foreign target, and it’s not outside the boundaries of the United States. It’s in Manhattan, in easy walking distance from Grand Central Station. Fast Company observes that “Surveillance of the UN is illegal under international law.” If people are looking for grounds for the impeachment of Barack Obama, the UN spying misadventure looks like a good place to start.
The NSA spying against the United Nations clearly was not accidental. One of the documents includes the following statement from an NSA agent: “The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!)”. This statement is so clumsy, so blatant, in its glee about abusive, unconstitutional spying that I feel the need to confirm that this is, in fact, a genuine quote from the the documents provided by Snowden, and not a sarcastic attempt at wry derision. Somehow, for me, it makes the whole NSA spying scandal more frightening that agents working for Big Brother could actually write “(yay!)” when they gain new methods of conducting surveillance against targets that are supposed to be off-limits.
We have been told that the National Security Agency is focused on the mission of protecting us from terrorists. Who, though, are the suspected terrorists hiding out at the United Nations offices in New York City?
The weekend’s second revelation shows just how far from the terrorism target the National Security Agency has wandered. The Wall Street Journal reports that NSA agents are using the electronic surveillance system to spy on their lovers – or as the Wall Street Journal puts it, their “love interests” – a category that could include anybody that agents at the NSA find sexually attractive, and want to cyberstalk. They’re calling the practice LOVEINT.
If people at the NSA can use the telephone, email and Internet spying technology at their fingertips to snoop in on the private lives of romantic partners at will, it’s a sign that there aren’t any effective safeguards on the program. That means that military agents at the NSA have the ability to spy on Americans not just for personal reasons, but for political reasons as well. The NSA surveillance network is being used against Americans, as an instrument of power, not of protection.
These outrageous abuses of NSA surveillance powers have inspired a new Twitter theme: #NSAPickUpLines – The following are just a few of my favorites:
DON’T WORRY! What happens in Vegas stays in Salt Lake!
#LOVEINT is never having to say you’re sorry you didn’t get a warrant.
I bet you’re tired of guys who only pretend to listen.
You have the right to remain silent. But you’ll squeal when I start to probe deep.
Let me buy you dinner, I know you don’t have much in your bank account.
Do you believe in love at first sight, or did I misunderstand your search history?
I know exactly where you have been all my life.
“You had me at, “Hello?”
“Roses are red, violets are blue, your PIN number is 6852”
I just want to get closer to you… so I’ve switched the GPS on your phone back on.