Report claims NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times every year

A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) is pictured during sunrise in Bad Aibling south of Munich, August 6, 2013. Credit: Reuters
A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) is pictured during sunrise in Bad Aibling south of Munich, August 6, 2013.
Credit: Reuters

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since 2008, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involved unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order, the paper said.

They ranged from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls, it said.

The Post said the documents it obtained were part of a trove of materials provided to the paper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has been charged by the United States with espionage. He was granted asylum in Russia earlier this month.

The documents included a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance, the paper said. 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.

In one instance, the NSA decided it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans, the Post said. A notable example in 2008 was 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.

The Post said the NSA audit, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.

The paper said most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. It said 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.

In 2008, the FISA Amendments Act granted NSA broad new powers in exchange for regular audits from the Justice Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence and periodic reports to Congress and the surveillance court, the Post said.

“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,” a senior NSA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

“You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” he said. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

In what the Post said appeared to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.

The operation collected and commingled U.S. and foreign emails, the Post said, citing a top-secret internal NSA newsletter. NSA lawyers told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the agency could not practicably filter out the communications of Americans.

In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional.

Some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, have been trying for some time to get the NSA to give some kind of accounting of how much data it collects “incidentally” on Americans through various electronic dragnets. The Obama administration has strongly resisted such disclosures.

(Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by David Brunnstrom)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.