National Security Agency (NSA) officers have been accused of using agency tools to spy on love interests.
According to reports in the Wall Street Journal staff members using agency resources to keep tabs on partners or spouses was so well known it even has its own code name - 'LOVEINT'.
An NSA statement claims there has only been a "handful" of wilful abuses of agency resources in the last decade and the NSA has "zero tolerance for wilful violations of the agency's authorities" responding "as appropriate".
The WSJ reports that each known instance of LOVEINT was against a spouse or partner and the incidents were often self-reported and revealed during polygraph tests administered as part of the security clearance renewal process. Each was met with "administrative action of discipline".
Speaking to the Journal, senate intelligence committee chairwoman Senator Diane Feinstein said the agency had informed Congress of the 'isolated cases' which "did not involve surveillance of Americans, rather than people overseas."
"Clearly, any case of noncompliance is unacceptable, but these small numbers of cases do not change my view that NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses... when errors are identified, they are reported and corrected," she added.