The NSA can listen in on every phone call in foreign countries. (photo: KOAA TV)
NSA Reports It May Have [not may have, but did] Broken Laws With Decade of Spying on US Citizens
By David Lerman, Bloomberg News
26 December 14
The National Security Agency today released reports on intelligence collection that may have violated the law or U.S. policy over more than a decade, including unauthorized surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.
The NSA, responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, released a series of required quarterly and annual reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board that cover the period from the fourth quarter of 2001 to the second quarter of 2013.
The heavily-redacted reports include examples of data on Americans being e-mailed to unauthorized recipients, stored in unsecured computers and retained after it was supposed to be destroyed, according to the documents. They were posted on the NSA’s website at around 1:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
In a 2012 case, for example, an NSA analyst “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting,” according to one report. The analyst “has been advised to cease her activities,” it said.
Other unauthorized cases were a matter of human error, not intentional misconduct.
Last year, an analyst “mistakenly requested” surveillance “of his own personal identifier instead of the selector associated with a foreign intelligence target,” according to another report.
In 2012, an analyst conducted surveillance “on a U.S. organization in a raw traffic database without formal authorization because the analyst incorrectly believed that he was authorized to query due to a potential threat,” according to the fourth-quarter report from 2012. The surveillance yielded nothing.
The NSA’s intensified communications surveillance programs initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington unleashed an international uproar after they were disclosed in classified documents leaked by fugitive former contractor Edward Snowden last year.
No New Legislation
Congress has considered but not passed new legislation to curb the NSA’s collection of bulk telephone calling and other electronic data.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by lawmakers under post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism laws, issued a 238-page report in January urging the abolition of the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. The five-member board said the program has provided only “minimal” help in thwarting terrorist attacks.
The ACLU, which filed a lawsuit to access the reports, said the documents shed light on how the surveillance policies of NSA impact Americans and how information has sometimes been misused.
“The government conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority -— surveillance that increasingly puts Americans’ data in the hands of the NSA,” Patrick C. Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in an e-mail.
“Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight,” he said.
The reports show greater oversight by all three branches of government is needed, Toomey added.
The ACLU filed suit to turn a spotlight on an executive order governing intelligence activities that was first issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and has been modified many times since then.
The order allows the NSA to conduct surveillance outside the U.S. While the NSA by law can’t deliberately intercept messages from Americans, it can collect messages that get vacuumed up inadvertently as part of its surveillance of foreigners overseas.
After foreign intelligence is acquired, “it must be analyzed to remove or mask certain protected categories of information, including U.S. person information, unless specific exceptions apply,” the NSA said in a statement before posting the documents.
The extent of that collection has never been clear.
The agency said today it has multiple layers of checks in place to prevent further errors in intelligence gathering and retention.
“The vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error,” NSA said in its executive summary. “NSA goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws and regulations.”
The intelligence community is required to report potential violations to the oversight board, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In some cases, surveillance of foreign targets continued even when those targets were in the U.S., although such “non-compliant data” were later purged, according to the reports released today.
Some analysts sent intelligence information to other analysts who weren’t authorized to receive it, according to the documents. That information was deleted from recipients’ files when discovered.
Because of the extensive redactions, the publicly available documents don’t make clear how many violations occurred and how many were unlawful. While the reports contain no names or details of specific cases, they show how intelligence analysts sometimes have violated policy to conduct unauthorized surveillance work.
The NSA’s inspector general last year detailed 12 cases of “intentional misuse” of intelligence authorities from 2003 to 2013 in a letter to Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Those cases included a member of a U.S. military intelligence unit who violated policy by obtaining the communications of his wife, who was stationed in another country. After a military proceeding, the violator was punished by a reduction in rank, 45 days of extra duty and forfeiture of half of his pay for two months, according to the letter.
In a 2003 case, a civilian employee ordered intelligence collection “of the telephone number of his foreign-national girlfriend without an authorized purpose for approximately one month” to determine whether she was being faithful to him, according to the letter. The employee retired before an investigation could be completed.
The NSA acknowledged last year that some of its analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade.
“Over the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found,” the agency said in a statement to Bloomberg News in August 2013. “NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations -- responding as appropriate.”
© 2014 Reader Supported News
Thursday, December 25, 2014
NSA Spied on Americans for Over a Decade: Report
Christmas Eve document dump: Files released in response to an ACLU lawsuit shows long-term, unauthorized NSA operations against U.S. citizens
Nadia Prupis, staff writer
Late in the day on Christmas Eve, the NSA released a cache of documents revealing more of its long-term, unlawful surveillance operations. (Photo: Electronic Frontier Foundation/flickr/cc)
The National Security Agency quietly released a heavily redacted report late Wednesday night showing that its mass surveillance program targeting U.S. citizens went on for more than 10 years.
The documents, which are made up of annual and quarterly reports filed since 2001, were published to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the ACLU.
They note numerous instances in which U.S. citizens were erroneously targeted for spying and information was passed among servers that were "not authorized" to hold it. Many of these cases were shown to be "marked for purging," but it is unclear whether they were actually deleted.
The NSA's executive summary of the reports states, "The vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error... Data incorrectly acquired is almost always deleted."
As exposed in NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's document leak in 2013, much of the surveillance program consisted of unauthorized spying on American targets. According to a 2012 report, an analyst conducted a query "on a U.S. organization in a raw traffic database without formal authorization because the analyst incorrectly believed that he was authorized to query due to a potential threat."
On multiple occasions, NSA analysts "performed overly broad or poorly constructed database queries" that potentially targeted American citizens—referred to in the documents as USP, for "U.S. persons."
Mistakes made by analysts often did not come to light until they were discovered by database auditors, the reports show. In 2012, an erroneous query was apparently made because an analyst "did not realize that the e-mail addresses were US addresses."
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Snowden also revealed that agents often used their surveillance powers for use in their personal lives. The reports released Wednesday confirmed that trend, noting one instance in which an analyst "searched her spouse's telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting." The analyst was apparently "advised to cease her activities."
Similarly, as The Verge notes, NSA agents also apparently stalked their potential love interests so often that the practice acquired its own inter-agency nickname: LOVEINT.
"The government conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority—surveillance that increasingly puts Americans’ data in the hands of the NSA,” Patrick C. Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. "Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight."
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs