Surprise! NSA Violated Privacy Rules 2,776 Times In One Year

by William Teach | August 16, 2013 7:02 am

Unfortunately, Americans aren’t up in arms over the revelations from Edward Snowden, and will probably yawn at this Washington Post[1] report.


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[3] and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post 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[4], 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.

The Obama administration has provided almost no public information about the NSA’s compliance record. In June, after promising to explain the NSA’s record in “as transparent a way as we possibly can,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole described extensive safeguards and oversight that keep the agency in check. “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,” Cole said in congressional testimony.

Most of what is noted seems to be “errors”, which include operator errors, such as not following standard procedures and training issues, along with computer errors. Makes one feel safe, eh?

The NSA audit obtained by The Post[5], 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.

The NSA notes that “hey, we’re human, sh*t happens, and really, these were just a tiny percent of all the things we do, no need to worry, we promise we’re really good”. The report only covers the Ft. Meade and Washington area stations, not the others scattered around, otherwise the numbers would be much bigger.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that the court found the NSA in breach of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Obama administration has fought a Freedom of Information lawsuit that seeks the opinion.

One has to wonder just how worse the situation actually is, and unsurprisingly Team Obama is against transparency and making sure that the Civil Rights of Americans aren’t violated. We also have to wonder how many times the NSA intentionally violated the privacy of Americans.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[6]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[7].

  1. Washington Post:
  2. [Image]:
  3. an internal audit:
  4. one of the documents:
  5. NSA audit obtained by The Post:
  6. Pirate’s Cove:
  7. @WilliamTeach:

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