Report: NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times

by Jonathan Easley - The Hill  |  published on August 16, 2013

The National Security Agency broke privacy rules or illegally overstepped its authority thousands of times to obtain communications of U.S. citizens and foreigners in the U.S., according to a report in the Washington Post.

The report is based on an internal audit and other documents leaked to the news organization by Edward Snowden. The audit found the NSA obtained private communications thousands of times without proper authorization since Congress authorized the agency’s surveillance methods in 2008.

Incidents of overreach occurred because of typographical errors, and include communications intercepted without proper authorization, or because the agency failed to implement proper compliance safeguards to prevent unlawful surveillance, according to the paper’s analysis.

The report counts 2,776 such incidents between May, 2011, and May, 2012, most of which were unintended intercepts of communications. The most serious incident in the report “included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.”

A spokesperson for the NSA, speaking anonymously and with permission from the White House, said the violations were only a small percentage when compared to the agency’s total output, and said the mistakes were the result of a “human-run agency operating in a complex environment.”

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