Friday, August 16, 2013

Uncontrolled by FISA court, NSA commits ‘thousands of privacy violations per year’

August 16, 2013

The National Security Agency broke the law and ignored privacy protections thousands of times in each of the years since Congressional leaders expanded the agency’s power in 2008, according to a new report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The majority of the violations are related to unauthorized surveillance on Americans or foreigners inside the United States, conditions deemed illegal by executive order, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

The account is based on top-secret documents and a May 2012 internal NSA audit that found 2,776 infractions – including unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications – in the preceding 12 months alone. The audit, originally only meant to be seen by top NSA leaders, only accounted for violations at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Virginia, and other locations in the Washington DC region.

Three government sources told the Post that the 2,776 infractions would in fact be much higher had the audit included all NSA data collection centers. Each of the 2,776 violations could have potentially encompassed thousands of communications.

One key to the Washington Post story,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first published Snowden’s disclosures in June, “the reports are internal, NSA audits, which means high likelihood of both under-counting and white-washing.”

One of the most flagrant examples is a 2008 incident when a “large number” of telephone calls were inadvertently intercepted because a programmer erroneously typed “202” instead of “20,” Egypt’s national calling code, according to a “quality assurance” memorandum never seen by NSA oversight staff.
Another time, the NSA kept 3,032 files they were ordered to destroy by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Each individual file included an undisclosed number of telephone call records, according to the Post.

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