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Looks like the National Security Agency, which makes it a practice to snoop into lives of Americans, broke privacy rules and overstepped its legal authority thousands of times a year since Congress, at the urging of then President George W. Bush, expanded the agency’s powers in 2008.
Most of the infractions involve illegal surveillance of Americans while some, but not the majority of offenses, targeted foreign intelligence operatives in the United States — both restricted by law and executive order.
Most are significant violations of law, while other infractions involve typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls, an internal audit reveals and tht audit verfiies information from top-secret documents provided earlier this summer from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a former systems analyst with the agency.
One such documents directs agency personnel to remove details and substitute more, and less damaging generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
A “quality assurance review” reveals the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt. That review was not given to the NSA’s oversight staff.
The secret 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 court ruled it unconstitutional.
In the NSA audit from May 2012 documented 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months — listing unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violated court orders and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.
Says John DeLong, NSA’s director of compliance:
We want people to report if they have made a mistake or even if they believe that an NSA activity is not consistent with the rules. NSA, like other regulated organizations, also has a ‘hotline’ for people to report — and no adverse action or reprisal can be taken for the simple act of reporting. We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends and address them as well — all as a part of NSA’s internal oversight and compliance efforts. What’s more, we keep our overseers informed through both immediate reporting and periodic reporting.
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