NSA spying, now with porn. Plus Microsoft and encryption

As if the NSA spying saga wasn’t sexy enough, the agency reportedly spied on the online porn habits of six targets, all Muslim, as part of a plan to discredit them if needed.

The latest revelation from the Edward Snowden leaks was reported by the Huffington Post, which says that the NSA appeared to see the targets as potential “radicalizers.” Two apparently promoted Al-Qaeda propaganda, while the others had “minimal terrorist contacts.” The NSA thought the targets could radicalize others by using social media.

The Huffington Post said the plan’s “originator” was NSA Director Keith Alexander, and reminds us that the government used similar tactics — sullying people’s reputations — during the era of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

“Back then, the idea was developed by the longest serving FBI chief in U.S. history, today it was suggested by the longest serving NSA chief in U.S. history,” journalist James Bamford said.

“One ordinarily associates these kinds of tactics with the secret police services of authoritarian governments. That these tactics have been adopted by the world’s leading democracy – and the world’s most powerful intelligence agency — is truly chilling,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer in a statement on the group’s website.

In other NSA spying news, Microsoft is following the lead of companies such as Google, Yahoo and other tech companies by considering stepping up its encryption efforts, the Washington Post reports. The software giant apparently is concerned that the NSA may be tapping into its Internet traffic. The agency was reported to be doing that with Google and Yahoo traffic without the companies’ knowledge.

The Washington Post notes that Microsoft has been criticized for lagging behind in encryption; as Brandon Bailey reported recently, the company did not score high in an Electronic Frontier Foundation report ranking tech companies’ security measures.

 

Photo: A leaked document whose “originator” was Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, shows a plan to collect information about targets’ online porn habits with the intention of using it to discredit them. (Abaca Press/MCT)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4116 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com