LOVEINT

The drip feed of revelations about spying by NSA, related agencies and international subsidiaries like ASIO/ASIS, is taking on a familiar pattern. Take some long-held suspicion about what they might be up to, and go through the following steps

1. “You’re being paranoid. That can never happen, thanks to our marvellous checks and balances”
2. “Well, actually it does happen, but hardly ever, so there’s no need to worry about it”
3. “OK, it happens all the time, but you shouldn’t be worried unless you have something to hide”

An example which must have occurred to quite a few of us is whether NSA employees can spy on current or former partners, potential love interests and so on. Until a few days ago, this was at stage 1. Now, it’s been admitted that this not only happens, but it has a name “LOVEINT“. Still, we are told by the great defender of our liberties Dianne Feinstein, this has only happened on a handful of occasions (Stage 2).

All very reassuring, until you read the following

Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

In other words, while NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time, it relies on witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by its own employees. I guess we’ll just have to hope that NSA staff are too busy snooping on our emails to read any of the 194 000 Google hits on “how to cheat a polygraph”.

19 thoughts on “LOVEINT

  1. Not sure it was true or urban myth, but there was a Canberra rumour that ASIO / ASIS types avoided child support obligations because their agency would not acknowledge their existence to the Child Support Agency. Thought it would be a good question for Senate estimates – how many staff have the CSA obligations deducted from their pay. Would give an insight into their commitment to the laws of Australia.

  2. I’m still staggered by the indefinite imprisonment (Fairfield Immigration Centre) of Tamil Sri Lankan detainees with acknowledged refugee status following adverse findings from ASIO. I understand there is a judicial review process under way but the Kafkaesque reality of their current situation is astonishing. And I don’t particularly hold a torch for Tamil Tigers, inventors of the suicide bomb.

  3. Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

    I am reliably informed that two of the NSA’s standard screening questions in a polygraph session are “Are you working for a foreign government?” & “Are you using NSA facilities to stalk the girl/boy friend?”

    And you are very right to call the polygraph screening “witchcraft” or at least the National Research Council’s report a few years ago did. I think Astrology would probably be a better tool.

  4. pablo :
    I’m still staggered by the indefinite imprisonment (Fairfield Immigration Centre) of Tamil Sri Lankan detainees with acknowledged refugee status following adverse findings from ASIO. I understand there is a judicial review process under way but the Kafkaesque reality of their current situation is astonishing. And I don’t particularly hold a torch for Tamil Tigers, inventors of the suicide bomb.

    What would you do instead? Make australia a haven for violent terrorists?

  5. “Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
    Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been.” – Pink Floyd.

  6. @TerjeP

    Yes, except that it is not government which is bad, it is bad government which is bad. Currently, the rich control the government in the USA and through it they remotely control the country. Take away the US government and you would simply get direct control of the country by the super rich. So everything which happens in the US now, and which you and all libertarians hate, would be ten times worse with no gvernment. The plutocrats would have total control with no checks and balances at all. Even if you are a millionaire TerjeP, the billionaires with total power and no government around would crush you, destroy you and take everything you had.

  7. Given the recent problems the US has had with its own workers releasing official secrets, you’d think they’d police them more closely. But they workers themselves might not be happy to be constantly observed…

  8. @Jim Rose
    Stop being obtuse, Jim. Tough, I know, but I’m sure you’re up to the challenge.

    Tamils (not necessarily Tigers) flee Sri Lanka in fear of their lives. Sri Lankan govt, with form for persecuting Tamils, says to ASIO (who also have form for a lot of stupidity – Ustasi springs to mind) “these people are terrsts.” ASIO, through either stupidity or malice, accepts Sri Lankan Govt assesment of these people and ensures they’re locked up forever. It’s win-win (except for the poor bastards in indefinite detention).

  9. I’m struggling to see the relevance, Jim.

    As an aside, I do support limited electronic surveillance by our intelligence agencies, tempered by recollections of their almost boundless incompetence over the last 60 + years (Ustasi, Tamils, anything to do with anti-Vietnam War protestors, etc, etc).

  10. at some point the admission has to be made that the ‘security state’ has taken over the democratic state,
    and some kind of explanation of it all has to be made that incorporates modern reality
    most analysis is still stuck in a bizarre Hobbes/Locke time-warp where the needs of the state and the rights of the citizen are being ‘balanced’ without any mention of the most powerful force in play, the giant multinational corporations which are virtually indistinguishable from the security state itself
    check out Jared Cohen and the stratfor emails if unsure

  11. David Irving (no relation) :
    I’m struggling to see the relevance, Jim.
    As an aside, I do support limited electronic surveillance by our intelligence agencies, tempered by recollections of their almost boundless incompetence over the last 60 + years (Ustasi, Tamils, anything to do with anti-Vietnam War protestors, etc, etc).

    what are ASIO’s sources for security assessments?

  12. ‘In other words, while NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time, it relies on witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by its own employees’

    They seem to need witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by the banks, the drug cartels, the Israelis and the MI complex too…

    Do they (a) not scan them, (b) scan them but find they come up roses, (c) scan them, find dirt but decide not to pursue (or have that decided for them), or (d) scan them, find dirt and negotiate favours or emoluments to ‘forget’ the dirt?

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