The NSA, responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, released a series of required quarterly and annual reportsto 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.
Two thoughts: One, as I’ve said numerous times, it’s entirely possible to hold the position that both the NSA needs massive reform to prevent civil liberties abuses, and that Edward Snowden went about exposing these abuses in a way that damaged national security. The ACLU on the other hand requested this information through FOIA, and got it. No espionage or skulduggery was required, and the information clearly shows the NSA isn’t following its own procedures. This was the right way to get evidence of these massive abuses and does so in a manner that’s both responsible and powerful.
And that brings me to Thought Two: please remember that Senate Republicans, including Rand Paul, killed legislation that would have increased oversight and civil liberties protections involving the NSA just last month, so the opportunity to do something about this was killed by the GOP. They’re not interested in reforming the NSA, they’re interested in allowing these abuses to continue, and the next Congress will do precisely nothing to rein this garbage in.
It’s pretty rancid for a Christmas Day news dump, but there you have it.