U.S. internal watchdog finds NSA workers spied on significant others
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least a dozen U.S. National Security Agency employees have abused secret surveillance programs in the past decade, most often to spy on their significant others, according to the latest findings of the agency's internal watchdog.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican, Charles Grassley, NSA Inspector General George Ellard outlined 12 instances of "intentional misuse" of the agency's intelligence gathering programs since January 1, 2003.
Grassley had asked the NSA internal watchdog to report on "intentional and wilful" abuse of the NSA surveillance authority as public concerns mount over the vast scope of the U.S. government's spying program.
The agency's operations have come under intense scrutiny since disclosures this spring by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the U.S. government collects far more Internet and telephone data than previously publicly known.
Many members of Congress and administration officials staunchly defend the NSA surveillance programs as a critical defence tool against terrorist attacks, but privacy advocates say the spying agency's authority has grown to be too sweeping.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the reported incidents of NSA employees' violations of the law are likely "the tip of the iceberg" of lax data safeguards, but that the laws guiding the NSA's spying authority in the first place are a bigger issue.