'Loveint': NSA employees spied on spouses, boyfriends
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Some National Security Agency (NSA) employees have illegally eavesdropped on the phone calls of their boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses over the past decade, the US spy service has admitted.
Confirming media reports that agency workers used surveillance technology in their private life - a practice jokingly known as "loveint" - the NSA's inspector-general, General George Ellard, released a letter to a US senator disclosing details of the romantic snooping.
The admission represented yet another setback for the agency as it struggles to defend its surveillance activities in the wake of revelations from intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who lifted the lid on the NSA's vast digital dragnet.
Writing to Senator Charles Grassley, Gen Ellard said since 2003 there were 12 "substantiated instances of intentional misuse of the signals intelligence (SIGINT) authorities". These are procedures that allow the agency to search telephone records and tap communications of suspects abroad.