The NSA Is Tracking People's Porn Habits

In the hopes of discrediting terrorist recruiters

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 27, 2013 7:59 AM CST

(Newser) – Forget email and phone data, the NSA is officially spying on something people really want to keep private: their porn history. The spy agency has proposed discrediting radical Islamists who might be attempting to radicalize others by publicly airing any dirty laundry that might make them look like hypocrites, including their porn habits, according to the latest leak from Edward Snowden's treasure trove. In the memo, which is from last October, the NSA's director touts six targets as "exemplars" of how the tactic could work, the Huffington Post reports.

The six targets, three English-speaking and three Arabic-speaking, are believed to be radicalizing others through inflammatory YouTube and social media posts. All are Muslims believed to be abroad, though one is characterized as a "US person." None are suspected of being involved in terrorist plots, and in the case of the English speakers, only 1% of their contacts are suspected of being affiliated with extremist groups. The NSA has sexually explicit info on at least two of them—others are to be discredited with things like financial indiscretions. (The document does not state how far the NSA has gone in its plan; it's unclear whether it has leaked any of the info on the six, or made any of them aware of what it has.) The leak is likely to prove controversial. Some responses:

  • "If people are engaged in trying to recruit folks to kill Americans and we can discredit them, we ought to," says a former general counsel for the NSA. "Dropping the truth on them" is "fairer and maybe more humane" than dropping bombs, he argues.
  • But an ACLU official counters that "the NSA's surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused—the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone. … the NSA says this personal information won't be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines 'abuse' very narrowly."

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This modified screenshot shows the results of a Google search for porn.   (Google/Newser)
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