Report: NSA Broke Privacy Rules Repeatedly
By VOA News
A prominent U.S. newspaper says it has obtained a National Security Agency internal audit and other top secret documents, showing that the 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.
The Washington Post reported Thursday most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the U.S., both restricted by law and executive order. The newspaper said the infractions range from “significant violations of law” to typographical errors resulting in the “unintended interception” of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The Washington Post said NSA leaker Edward Snowden provided the newspaper with the documents weeks ago. The report said the documents include a level of detail and analysis that is “not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance.”
The newspaper cited an unidentified senior NSA official who said in an interview “we’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.”
According to the story, in one of the documents, NSA 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.
The Washington Post said the NSA decided it did not need to report the unintended surveillance of Americans. The newspaper said a “notable example” in 2008 was the interception of a large number of calls placed from Washington. The Post said a programming error confused Washington’s telephone area code 202 for 20, the international dialling code for Egypt. The newspaper said that, according to a “quality assurance” review, the NSA’s oversight staff was not made aware of the interceptions.
The Post cited another case in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for “many months.” The report says the court ruled the method unconstitutional.
The Washington Post said in the NSA audit, dated May, 2012, there were 2,776 “incidents” in the preceding 12 months of “unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” The newspaper said most of the incidents were “unintended,” involving “failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure.” The newspaper said the “most serious” incidents involved a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green card holders.
The Washington Post said there is “no reliable way” to calculate from the number of recorded compliance issues, how many American’s have had their communications “improperly collected, stored or distributed by the NSA.”