NSA logged online porn habits of Muslim 'radicalizers' -- report

The targets' appetite for sexually explicit material means their reputations can be undermined on charges of hypocrisy, according to a document released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

National Security Agency buildings.
National Security Agency buildings. NSA

The National Security Agency monitored and spotlighted the online pornography practices and financial misdeeds of six Muslim "radicalizers" so that their authority could be undermined by showing hypocrisy, according to a new report.

The "radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent," the Huffington Post reported Tuesday, quoting from an October 3, 2012, report released after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it.

Vulnerabilities included using donations for personal expenses, charging exorbitant speaking fees, and "viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls," the document said.

"Some of the vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question the radicalizer's devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority," the document said.

The government didn't deny the surveillance. Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told the Huffington Post in a statement:

Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize others to violence.

However, the electronic surveillance has triggered concern among those who fear the NSA will abuse its online data-gathering power. In the 1960s and 1970s, the NSA spied on Martin Luther King , Jr., two senators, Muhammad Ali, and journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

"This report is an unwelcome reminder of what it means to give an intelligence agency unfettered access to individuals' most sensitive information," American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

Update, 11:20 a.m. PT: Adds comment from the ACLU.

The National Security Agency in about 1950
The National Security Agency in about 1950 NSA
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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