Edward Snowden’s latest revelation about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities is to say that agents who stumble across photographs of naked individuals in their files don’t exactly treat them as sensitive documents. Rather, they pass them around to their office pals, he said.
“You’ve got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old,” he said, The Independent reported. “They’ve suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records. Now, in the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense, for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation — but they’re extremely attractive.”
Mr. Snowden went on, in his latest interview given from Moscow to The Guardian: “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and show their co-worker and their co-worker says, ‘Oh hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ And then Bill sends it to George, George sends it to Tom, and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by other people. It’s never reported. Nobody knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak.”
Mr. Snowden confirmed that he’d witnessed just that action occurring on several occasions.
Specifically, he described it as happening on a “routine enough [basis], depending on the company that you keep,” he said, The Independent reported. “These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.”
The NSA Office of the Inspector General did reveal in 2013 that at least one of the agency’s employees spent his first day at work sifting through the private communications of a former girlfriend. And just such has happened on so many other occasions that agents even gave it a name — LOVEINT, a combination of HUMINT, or human intelligence, and SIGINT, or signals intelligence.