ABC News reports that the Inspector General for the National Security Agency has begun an investigation into allegations by whistleblowers of abuse in the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. Two former intercept operators said that the agency listened in on intimate calls from American citizens stationed abroad (soldiers, journalists, relief workers) even though the individuals were not suspected of any crimes.
In a letter [to US Senators] released today, [Director of National Intelligence, J.M. McConnell] said the NSA was unaware of the allegations, made by two former intercept operators, until ABC News reported them.
Former Army Arab linguist Adrienne Kinne and former Navy Arab linguist David Murfee Faulk told ABC News they observed and participated in intercepting private calls between Americans while they were detailed to a NSA listening post at Fort Gordon, outside Augusta, Georgia.
The two said calls by American journalists, aid workers and soldiers serving in Iraq were targeted for interception, because, they say they were told, there were “special waivers” to make it legal.
Several senators on high-ranking committees have called for investigations into the allegations. It remains to be seen if any investigation of consequence will occur. One of the senators urging an investigation, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, was one of the biggest supporters of the terrible FISA bill that passed this summer.
In July, Privacy Lives joined a group of organizations, including the ACLU and Center for National Security Studies, in sending a letter (pdf) to the U.S. Senate in opposition to that legislation, the FISA Amendments Act, H.R. 6304. The groups stated:
The bill would threaten Americans’ privacy by doing too little to restore judicial review and failing to include other reasonable civil liberties protection. The administration has not made a persuasive case that these sweeping new powers are needed or that existing authorities are inadequate to ensure the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence-gathering activities.
In addition, this legislation would use the federal courts to rubber stamp a grant of immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted with unlawful warrantless surveillance.