WASHINGTON—National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said.
The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.
Fine. That’s obviously a limited hangout.
But what about HATEINT? You don’t suppose any of this sort of thing is going on, do you?
John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972 at age 77.
In 1956 Hoover was becoming increasingly frustrated by Supreme Court decisions that limited the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute people for their political opinions, most notably communists. Some of his aides reported that he purposely exaggerated the threat of communism to “ensure financial and public support for the FBI.” At this time he formalized a covert “dirty tricks” program under the name COINTELPRO.
This program remained in place until it was revealed to the public in 1971, after the theft of many internal documents stolen from an office in Media, Pennsylvania, and was the cause of some of the harshest criticism of Hoover and the FBI. COINTELPRO was first used to disrupt the Communist Party, where Hoover went after targets that ranged from suspected everyday spies to larger celebrity figures such as Charlie Chaplin who were seen as spreading Communist Party propaganda, and later organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others. Its methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumors about key members of target organizations. Some authors have charged that COINTELPRO methods also included inciting violence and arranging murders. In 1975 the activities of COINTELPRO were investigated by the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, called the Church Committee after its chairman, Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho), and these activities were declared illegal and contrary to the Constitution. Hoover amassed significant power by collecting files containing large amounts of compromising and potentially embarrassing information on many powerful people, especially politicians. According to Laurence Silberman, appointed Deputy Attorney General in early 1974, FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley thought such files either did not exist or had been destroyed. After The Washington Post broke a story in January 1975, Kelley searched and found them in his outer office. The House Judiciary Committee then demanded that Silberman testify about them.
Of course, officials of the Obama Administration wouldn’t do such a thing, but what if a Republican someday won the presidency? Just askin’.
Image by Skagitrenee [AKA Irene*Renee] under Creative COmmons license