Author: Military intelligence spied on Americans
David Edwards and Andrew McLemore
Published: Saturday October 11, 2008

Print This  Email This

Spying on Americans isn't always about gathering information about terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. Sometimes it's about other important matters of national security.

Like phone sex.

Two military linguists who listened to overseas phone calls for U.S. intelligence spoke out against their former profession this week, lamenting their eavesdropping on the personal conversations of Americans, the Associated Press reported.

"I was told, hey, check this out, there's some good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call it's really funny," one of the operatives said in an interview with ABC.

The interceptors admitted to spying on hundreds of American soldiers, journalists and aid workers stationed in the Middle East, Rachel Maddow reported for MSNBC.

"Basically, the Bush administration has used the Constitution to line its proverbial kitty-litter box," Maddow said.

A new book claims the accusations from the operatives-turned-whistleblowers are only a few of the many complaints that can be leveled against U.S. intelligence and how it conducts spy programs.

Investigative journalist James Bamford reported on the shady dealings of the National Security Agency's wiretapping program in his new book "The Shadow Factory," which includes the information from the two operatives who went to the press this week.

In an interview with Maddow, Bamford said one of the whistleblowers protested to her superiors and even complained to Sen. Patrick Leahy of the Congressional Committee, but no one took her complaints seriously.

"They were very angry that they were eavesdropping on average Americans instead of going after terrorists, which is what they went into the military to do in the first place," Bamford said.

Bamford also said the operatives were not allowed to eliminate the personal calls once they were received.

"Every time a person called their spouse, every time a journalist called his source or called the editor or called his wife or husband, they [the conversations] were collected and transcribed and also stored," he said.

It is difficult to know if the eavesdropping is even illegal with the amount of Senate modifications to FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), Bamford said.

He added that the NSA is building "an enormous facility in Texas" to store the conversations.

Before her interview with Bamford, Maddow showed clips of a two-year-old speech of President Bush reassuring Americans they would be safe from spy programs.

"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of Americans," Bush said. "Our efforts are focussed on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates."

A Senate panel is investigating the claims against the NSA.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast October 10, 2008.

Download video via