ABC: NSA agents admit spying on Americans' private calls
The Bush administration has repeatedly defended its warrantless surveillance of Americans as being directed only against "people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."
Now two intercept operators who worked for the National Security Agency at Fort Gordon in Georgia have come forward to tell ABC News that isn't true.
David Murfee Faulk described to ABC's Brian Ross how he had listened to "personal phone calls of American officers, mostly in the Green Zone [in Baghdad], calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses and sometimes their girlfriends."
"Co-workers of mine were ordered to transcribe these calls," Faulk stated. "When one of my co-workers went to a supervisor and said, 'But sir, these are personal calls,' the supervisor said, 'My orders were to transcribe everything.'"
Adrienne Kinne, who like Faulk is an Arab linguist, said she had received the same orders and had listened to hundreds of Americans in the Middle East simply calling home. She emphasized that these were "Americans who are not in any way, shape, or form associated with anything to do with terrorism. It was just personal conversations that really nobody else should have been listening to."
When asked about President Bush's statement that the intercepts were directed only at known al-Qaeda suspects, Kinne stated, "That is completely a lie." She said that military officers, journalists, and Red Cross workers were among the people whose calls she transcribed.
Faulk told ABC that certain calls were even passed around among the intercept operators like office jokes. "I was told, 'Hey, check this out, there's some good phone sex.' ... It was there, stored the way you'd look at songs on your iPod."
"I feel that was something the people should not have been doing, including me," Faulk acknowledged.
Both whistleblowers' stories are included in a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford, The Shadow Factory. Bamford told ABC that although Americans were told the surveillance program was needed to keep us safe, "What it turns out to be is for a more prurient reason, listening for the sake of listening and then laughing."
CIA Director Michael Hayden, who was previously head of the NSA, has issued a statement saying that "any suggestion General Hayden sanctioned or tolerated illegalities of any sort is ridiculous on its face."
More details are available from ABC here.
This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast October 9, 2008.
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