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  • Congress review NSA eavesdropping...

    Congress to review NSA eavesdropping charges




    By Rick Maze and William H. McMichael - Staff writers
    Posted : Sunday Oct 12, 2008 14:05:49 EDT

    The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence proposes a full investigation of allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on personal and intimate telephone calls between deployed service members and their friends and family and even circulated some of the spicier calls among NSA workers for amusement.
    Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, who heads the Senate panel overseeing the NSA and its intelligence program that monitors calls from overseas to the U.S., said the allegations made by two military linguists who formerly worked for the NSA “are extremely disturbing.”
    The linguists made the allegations in interviews with ABC News.
    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “is examining this now and we have requested all relevant information from the Bush Administration,” Rockefeller said. “The committee will take whatever action is necessary to ensure those rules are followed and any violations are addressed.”
    One reason the allegations have received so much attention is that the linguists spoke of intimate and sexually oriented telephone calls being monitored even though it appeared clear that these were private conversations between people who posed no national security threat to the U.S.
    Rockefeller said service members making the calls had their privacy violated.
    “Any time there is an allegation regarding abuse of the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, it is a very serious matter,” he said. “Congress has enacted tough laws — including the [Foreign Intelligence Security Act] reform bill passed this year — and there are strict procedures in place governing intelligence surveillance when it involves U.S. persons.”
    Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said service members should be aware that when they use any government equipment to communicate, “it’s subject to monitoring.”
    “Every time I turn on my computer, it tells me that,” Whitman said. “Service members understand that. They’re trained in that.”
    A Senate aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed that military personnel probably know that their overseas phone calls to the States may be overheard by U.S. intelligence agencies and, in some cases, by foreign intelligence agents. However, the aide said callers would not expect their conversations to be replayed for the entertainment of NSA employees.
    “This is wrong on so many levels,” the aide said.
    The NSA released a statement in which it said some of the allegations have been investigated and found to be unsubstantiated, while others are still in the investigation process.
    The statement said the NSA “takes its legal responsibility seriously,” and any allegation of wrongdoing by its employees “is thoroughly investigated when brought to the attention of management.”
    “When we find misconduct, we take remedial action,” the statement said. “We operate in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations and with the highest standards of integrity and lawful action. Our activities are subject to strict scrutiny and oversight both from outside and inside NSA.”
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