National Security Agency surveillance has gathered records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a plan to exploit the “personal vulnerabilities” of Muslims who the agency says are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, The Huffington Post reported Tuesday, citing what it said was a top-secret NSA document.
The document, provided by former government contractor Edward Snowden, reportedly explained how electronic surveillance can be used to damage someone’s credibility.
“Some vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority,” the document, which was dated Oct. 3, 2012, said, according to The Huffington Post.
The report identified exploitable behaviors as including “viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”
The originator of the document is listed as DIRNSA (director of the National Security Agency), the report said.
“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 in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday.
The NSA document reportedly said that the targets have radicalized others by spreading controversial ideas using YouTube, Facebook and other social media tools. It added that the audience “includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message.”
Six targets, all Muslims, were reportedly identified in the document as examples of how this type of surveillance can be used.
The NSA gathered embarrassing, sexually explicit information about at least two of the targets using electronic surveillance of their online activity, and the document said this information could be used to destroy their credibility, The Huffington Post said.
“Focusing on access reveals potential vulnerabilities of character or credibility, or both, of the message in order to shape the perception of the messenger as well as that of his followers,” the report quoted the NSA document as saying.
An appendix lists the targets and the reasons the NSA believes they are radicalizers, and identifies personal vulnerabilities of each that could be exposed to undermine their credibility, according to the report.
It said one of the targets is called radical for his argument that “non-Muslims are a threat to Islam.” His listed vulnerability is “online promiscuity.”
Another target is described as a “well-known media celebrity” who is based in the Middle East and who maintains that the “U.S. perpetrated the 9/11 attack.” The report said his vulnerabilities include the fact that he leads a “glamorous lifestyle.”
The leak exposing NSA surveillance tactics is the latest from Snowden, who fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong to Russia after releasing a large number of top-secret documents to the media.
The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, published the first leaks of classified NSA documents on June 5.