by Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim
Posted: 11/26/2013 11:20 pm EST
WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.
The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. “A previous SIGINT" -- or signals intelligence, the interception of communications -- "assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent,” the document argues.
Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”
The Director of the National Security Agency -- described as "DIRNSA" -- is listed as the "originator" of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
None of the six individuals targeted by the NSA is accused in the document of being involved in terror plots. The agency believes they all currently reside outside the United States. It identifies one of them, however, as a "U.S. person," which means he is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. A U.S. person is entitled to greater legal protections against NSA surveillance than foreigners are.
One target's offending argument is that "Non-Muslims are a threat to Islam," and a vulnerability listed against him is "online promiscuity." Another target, a foreign citizen the NSA describes as a "respected academic," holds the offending view that "offensive jihad is justified," and his vulnerabilities are listed as "online promiscuity" and "publishes articles without checking facts." A third targeted radical is described as a "well-known media celebrity" based in the Middle East who argues that "the U.S perpetrated the 9/11 attack." Under vulnerabilities, he is said to lead "a glamorous lifestyle." A fourth target, who argues that "the U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks on itself" is said to be vulnerable to accusations of “deceitful use of funds." The document expresses the hope that revealing damaging information about the individuals could undermine their perceived "devotion to the jihadist cause."