We have HUMINT, or human intelligence gathered from agents. We have SIGINT or signals intelligence. And now we have LOVEINT or NSA analysts occasionally reading the emails of ex-lovers. It doesn’t happen a lot, the NSA told the WSJ, but often enough that there is a word for it.
The NSA has dealt with the spying scandal with the classic techniques of government manipulation of the public: Deny for as long as possible, then make few gradual small admissions, so when the big abuses come out the press views the story as stale and is unconcerned about the new scale of abuse coming out.
1. First, deny everything. Say it is impossible to access individual Americans’ email as they are typing.
2. Use the difference between statute (laws passed by Congress) and Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Executive Order (which responded to earlier intel abuses and forbids spying on Americans) to deny that any “laws” have been broken. (An Executive Order has the force of law but isn’t exactly a law.). Notorious authoritarians like Mike Rogers (R-MI), head of the House Intelligence Committee, have used this ploy. Rogers wouldn’t know a civil liberty if he tripped over it.
3. Admit the capability but insist there are strict controls absolutely preventing abuse.
4. Insist that the FISA court and the House and Senate intelligence committees have full oversight.
5. Admit that the NSA repeatedly lied to the FISA court.
6. Admit a few tens of thousands of in-country US emails were collected before the FISA judges found out and stopped it.
7. Admit you haven’t actually been telling Congress about the abuses
8. Admit that you’ve been sharing info on Americans gained through warrantless surveillance with the Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement, who then lied about how they came by the evidence
9. Admit that just a handful of LOVEINT stalking abuses have occurred
Yet to come: revelations that the British GCHQ, having been paid $150 million to do it, spies on Americans for the NSA & then shares the info
And: Perhaps, the ‘handful of times’ the NSA has engaged in insider trading and affected stock movements
And: Perhaps, the handful of times the NSA has blackened the reputations of politicians it didn’t like
and other handfuls of times Secret Government, which is always tyranny, has trumped democracy and the Constitution