So, you know how sometimes, in the giddy excitement of seeing someone new, you stalk them mercilessly across any Internet platform where they’ve ever opened an account? Or maybe, after you’ve been together a while — or say, gotten married — you start to wonder if they really are just working overtime when they come home late, and you find yourself glancing at the e-mail window they left open on their laptop or frantically checking their text messages when their in the shower? Unsurprisingly, National Security Agency employees are also tempted toward this kind of behavior, except their snooping capabilities are not limited to Google.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a few NSA workers have “channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests.” One official estimated that there have only been “a handful” of such cases in the last decade, but the very personal spying has earned its own label within the agency: LOVEINT. (According to the Journal, “Spy agencies often refer to their various types of intelligence collection with the suffix of ‘INT,’ such as ‘SIGINT’ for collecting signals intelligence, or communications; and ‘HUMINT’ for human intelligence, or spying.”)
The NSA’s admission comes at the end of a week during which the agency revealed that it violated privacy rules nearly 3,000 times in a single year, though Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong has insisted that most of those incidents were “unintentional.” According to officials, “the ‘LOVEINT’ examples constitute most episodes of willful misconduct by NSA employees,” and those who were caught were “punished either with an administrative action or termination.” Most of the cases were self-reported (sometimes during a routine polygraph test) and all are said to have “involved overseas communications…such as spying on a partner or spouse.” Still, at this point, we’d think twice about accepting a date with even a domestically based NSA officer.