In a leaked document, the NSA was found to have been using porn and other potentially-incriminating material in a plan to discredit its targets, who are potential “radicalizers” in the US and abroad.

Hacker on laptop The NSA spies on porn habits to discredit target radicalizers

Who knew that porn could be used as a tool to protect national security?

The National Security Agency has been criticized for its eavesdropping activities across the Internet, including spying on both domestic and foreign targets. While this is meant to be for intelligence purposes, recently-leaked documents spell out how the agency is likewise using targets’ online habits as a potential weapon for discrediting would-be “radicalizers”.

The NSA has reportedly gathered data on online sexual activity and has gone as far as log evidence of visits to pornographic websites, as part of a proposed plan to use this information to harm the reputations of would-be radicalizers. The leaked document, shared by whistleblower Edward Snowden, has actually identified six targets, identifying each one’s “personal vulnerabilities” that can be studied and exploited through electronic surveillance.

The plan is to undermine the target’s credibility, reputation and authority in his or her community, with the broader aim of preventing future terror acts. The document reports that “radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent.” Some findings included “viewing sexually-explicit content online,” as well as “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with young girls.”

The director of the NSA was identified as the originator of the document, although intended recipients of the gathered information include other agencies, like the DoJ and DEA as recipients.

Civil liberty advocates have decried the act, saying it is prone to abuse, especially given how the NSA is likely to define “abuse” narrowly. However, government believes it is within legal bounds, because it is meant to prevent harm. “[I]t 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,” said Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence.

Another agreement in favor of spying and discrediting is that it may actually be more humane than dropping a bomb on human targets, argued a former NSA official, comparing the tactic as “dropping the truth on them” instead of resorting to violence. In fact, the same tactic had been used by the government against political leaders and activists, whether as a means of blackmail, harassment or straight out discrediting. The information usually involves sex — homosexuality (a big deal during the mid 20th century), extramarital affairs, and now pornography.

Source: Huffington Post / Image credit: Shutterstock