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NSA’s response to spouse spying not reassuring

When is it acceptable for the federal government to spy on Americans outside of foreign terror investigations? Apparently, when someone at the National Security Agency wants to spy on a spouse.

That’s the troubling takeaway from NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Questioned about reported abuses in surveillance, he acknowledged 12 instances of abuse previously reported in which employees used a network to investigate a spouse.

All were caught and most were disciplined.

How the NSA knows that all were caught is curious, but not nearly as curious as the disclosure that most, not all, were disciplined.

Alexander’s assurance that the NSA collected data from social networks and other commercial databases to track terror suspects, but not to build files on Americans, hardly engenders confidence that privacy rights are protected.