NSA infringed privacy right spying on Americans for five years - Snowden

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NSA infringed privacy right spying on Americans for five years - Snowden
Published 16-08-2013, 10:00
Over the recent 5 years, US National Security Agency (NSA) has infringed the right of privacy of Americans thousands of times and exceeded its authorities with which it has been invested by the 2008 law. This reported on Thursday the Washington Post on its website after receiving access to the "internal audit results and other secret documents."

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As reported by the paper, these documents were handed earlier this summer by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Data collected by him is notable for "such details and deep analysis, which are not disclosed even for Congressmen or special court" that gives sanctions to wiretap phone conversations of criminals and terrorists, the Washington Post writes.

According to the publication, the major part of the violations made by NSA consisted in "illegal spying on Americans or intelligence targets inside the US" Law violations varied from "serious to negligible," emerging from human fault or computer program failure. These mistakes sometimes led to wiretapping phone conversations or reading emails of Americans.

The report on results of internal NSA audit says that for the recent 12 months there have been 2,776 cases of unauthorized collection, storage, accessing or distribution of data on communications that should be protected by law, according to Washington Post. However, the newspaper adds that the major part of these violations occurred accidently.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of examples when NSA apparently violated the law voluntarily. Specifically, the Agency during several months was collecting data without court sanctions by means of a special program that later was deemed illegal. Once NSA decided to simply suppress from watchdogs the fact of illegal spying on US nationals, and in another case NSA’s management ruled to exclude some facts indicating on breach of law from reports to US Department of Justice and to the office of FBI head.

One of NSA’s gravest violations, according to Washington Post, was the data collection from fiber cables in the US used for international telecommunication.

The publication said that it has informed the government in advance that it was going to publish this information based on documents handed by Snowden. The Washington Post has also contacted one of the NSA managers that obtained a permit from the White House to be interviewed. He claimed that the Agency is doing its best to correct the mistakes since nobody’s perfect, however, the proportion of flaws is not too large.

At the same time, other NSA employees interviewed by Washington Post admitted that the violations mentioned in the report on internal audit results, refer only to NSA headquarters in Maryland near Washington. According to them, if similar checks were conducted in all NSA bases in the US and in other countries, the figures would be much higher.

The publication also notes that these events became possible to a large extent because NSA is almost uncontrolled by the society, and, in particular, by the Congress. Thus, Chair of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dianne Feinstein learned about the last year’s audit results only from journalists. In a statement she admitted that her Committee "may and must do more" to ensure independent control over NSA’s activities.

The National Security Agency used to break the law and ignore privacy laws thousands of times each 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 American citizens or foreigners inside the US, conditions deemed illegal by executive order, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

One of the documents cited by the Post showed that the NSA instructed staff to alter reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, replacing specific details with generic language, the report said.

The paper said on one occasion the NSA concealed the unintended surveillance of American individuals.

It cited an instance in 2008 when a "large number" of calls from Washington were monitored after a programming error mixed up the area code for the US capital — 202 — with the international dialing code for Egypt — 20.

The blunder was not revealed to the NSA’s oversight staff, the Post report said.

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

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 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 law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of US e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents 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, 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 that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a "large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused US area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a "quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the 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.

The Obama administration has provided almost no public information about the NSA’s compliance record.

The NSA audit obtained by The Post, 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.


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