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Another reason why giving the government broad surveillance powers is a bad idea:
Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teenage girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall. The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said Monday. Gary Sutton Jr., 40, of New Milton and Charles Hommema of Buckhannon have been charged with the misdemeanors and face fines and up to a year in jail on each charge if convicted. Sutton has been released on bond, Wilson said, and Hommema is to be arraigned later this week. Wilson did not know Hommema’s age. The workers were described in a complaint as “police officers,” but prosecutors did not say whether the men were agents or describe what kind of work they did. The Cinderella Project at the Middletown Mall in the north-central West Virginia town of Fairmont drew hundreds of girls from 10 high schools in five counties. Organizer Cynthia Woodyard said volunteers, donors and participants are angry. “I can’t even begin to put words around what I consider an unspeakable act, the misuse of surveillance by a branch of our government in a place we felt so secure,” she said. “Never in a million years would we have thought something like this would happen. We’re in shock.”
Lest you think that this is an isolated incident, consider this story, which I wrote about back in October:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.
“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.
Kinne described the contents of the calls as “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.
“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News.
Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall’s “smoke pit,” but ended up feeling badly about his actions.
“I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me,” he said.