FORT MEADE, MD — The National Security Agency reported a dramatic drop in teen sexting between 2012 and 2013 , with potentially disastrous national security implications.
Gen. Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that the number of revealing pictures of naked teenagers intercepted by the Agency had gone down approximately 3.8 percent from last year. According to the general, this is a major blow to analysts' attempts to disrupt terror plots and fill gaping emotional holes in their troubled personal lives.
"We've known for some time that terrorists and foreign governments can embed secret messages in pornographic images," Alexander explained to legislators. "Therefore we need complete access to all pornographic material on SMS. That way our analysts can thoroughly examine them for hidden training manuals, attack plans, or general communications. The more there is, the easier it is for us to develop a baseline of totally harmless naked pictures and uncover enemy activity."
He elaborated, "Let's say we intercept what looks like a routine picture of a teenage girl baring her breasts for her boyfriend, teacher, creepy uncle, etc. How are we supposed to know that it doesn't contain some type of code for an attack on the Manhattan subway system unless we spend several hours investigating every pixel of that picture, and then e-mail it to all our other analysts so they can too?"
"We can then augment these pictures with GPS data, facial recognition technology, biometric records, our nationwide network of security cameras, social media profiles, and financial information. With all this data, we can find out what they are sexting, where they are sexting, how often they are sexting, and if there is somehow a foreign terrorist connection. We can also examine their contact lists to find out who they are sexting, and if that person has sexted any images of their own. Over time we can build a detailed diagram of every person in an individual's personal network, with and without their clothes on."
He then showed senators a series of naked pictures of suspected Al Qaeda operatives that Duffel Blog really wishes it could un-see.
Gen. Alexander addressed privacy concerns by arguing that the sexting program was able to successfully balance national security with personal privacy. He listed multiple safeguards in the program to prevent analysts from accidentally viewing, keeping, saving or mass-distributing any images or videos they find. He then showed legislators his own personal one terabyte hard drive of evidence, which obviously could have been "much bigger" without the privacy restrictions.
He added that the teen sexting program was not directly aimed at American teenagers, but instead at teenagers in Brazil, France, and Mexico. "We've been especially fortunate in our online searches for teenage Brazilians," he boasted.
The NSA first began monitoring teen sexting after a German man was discovered in May 2011 carrying large haul of Al Qaeda documents embedded in a pornographic video. Four months later, the NSA created a website solely dedicated to harvesting teen sexting. The website was initially called "NSA-PChat," but later renamed to the more innocuous-sounding"Snapchat" after failing to attract a significant number of sexters.
Despite some public concern, both Congress and a Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act Court have approved the NSA gathering teenage sexts, provided that legislators and judges could review every single image to ensure that no constitutional rights were being violated.