It’s only reasonable to assume that men or women with near unbounded power to spy on the public would eventually use that power to peek at people they are sexually interested in. Well, now you don’t have to assume it, because the NSA is admitting it.
It’s called “LOVEINT” for ‘love intelligence’ and the NSA is no stranger to it. In a statement on Friday, the agency talked a little about the “very rare” known instances in which NSA agents wilfully violated guidelines to do a little personal spying in the name of love.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination.
[Senate intelligence committee chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.)] said "in most instances" the violations didn't involve an American's personal information. She added that she's seen no evidence that any of the violations involved the use of NSA's domestic surveillance infrastructure, which is governed by a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Of course, not having seen the evidence of domestic LOVEINT surveillance doesn't mean it's never happened.
The violations are apparently relatively sparse -- about one a year for the past decade -- and are often self-reported after periodic polygraph tests turn up something fishy. The cases (that the NSA talked about) sound like they revolve around jealousy, not envy, but it's a little creepy either way.