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NSA’s Audit Finds that the Agency ‘Overstepped its Authority’
An internal audit has found that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority ever since Congress granted the agency broad new powers, according to the Washington Post. The details of the infractions include surveillance that was unauthorized of both Americans and foreign intelligence targets. Both are “restricted by statute and executive order.” The kinds of violations span the range from “significant violations” to simple transposition, slide errors, or “typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. emails and telephone calls.
Notably, the NSA decided to not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. Perhaps it was considered immaterial. The Obama administration has not given any details about NSA’s compliance record. Transparency was promised and Deputy Attorney General James Cole clarified that there are safeguards and oversight in place.
In the last twelve months, the audit of the NSA found 2776 incidents of collection, storage, access or distribution, of legally protected communications, most of which were unintended. The cause had generally been “failures of due diligence” or simply “violations of standard operating procedure.”
The NSA commented that it tried to identify problems as early as possible, and fix things so that this kind of situation won’t happen again. A senior NSA official spoke in anonymity with the White House and commented, “we are a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.”