Thursday, August 15, 2013

RED HOT: NSA Broke Privacy Rules Thousands of Times Per Year, Audit Finds

This could be the big one that breaks NSA spying wide open.

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top secret documents, reported on by WaPo.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that result in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to WaPO by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Asked about this information, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court told WaPo that the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often government surveillance breaks the court's rules that aim to protect the privacy of Americans. Without drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of government claims that all the violations its staff reports are unintentional mistakes, the judge said


Via WaPo:

The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.


  1. ...typographical errors that result in ...

  2. Greenwald has confirmed on twitter this story is accurate and he has the same file but has not vetted it yet. He also points out that since it is internal the NSA prob vastly underestimated how many illegal acts actually took place.

    Glenn also says there are still a number of stories at least this big he will be revealing in the future.

  3. Government "rules" were quite literally made to be broken.