Report: NSA Spied on Targets’ Porn Habits to Discredit ‘Radicalizer’s Devotion to the Jihadist Cause’

At this point it’s widely acknowledged that the National Security Agency has been collecting communications data as part of its counterterrorism activities, but a new report says the spy agency has also been specifically monitoring the online sexual habits of targets.

NSA Surveillance
A sign stands outside the National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

The Huffington Post reported that the NSA has been keeping tabs on targets’ online pornography habits in order to use the information to discredit them. The document it received from admitted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden stated that “radicalizers” seem to be more “vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent.”

“Some vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to degradation or less of his authority,” a portion of the document stated.

One such potential vulnerability is pornography.

“Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the U.S. 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,” Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told the Huffington Post.

Stewart Baker, former general counsel for the NSA who was also a Homeland Security official in the Bush administration, said such a tactic of discrediting those who might be trying to recruit terrorists by “dropping the truth on them” is “more humane” than other options.

That said, the Huffington Post reported that civil liberties advocates said the document is concerning due to the potential for abuse of information.

“Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.”

Other vulnerabilities that could be used to discredit “radicalizers,” according to the document, include using donations for personal expenses, charging an “exorbitant amount of money” for speaking engagements, focusing on activities that increase statue, and using sources or language in messaging that might “(leave) them open to credibility challenges.”

Read the more about the top-secret document and perspectives about it in the Huffington Post’s full report.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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