A report out of the Washington Post claims that internal audits of the NSA demonstrate that the agency overstepped its legal authority on thousands of occasions annually since 2008. This was the year that Congress granted the agency sweeping powers to execute their surveillance program.
Many problems involved typographical errors which resulted in e-mails and phone calls being unintentionally intercepted. Others involved the surveillance of Americans and foreign targets that violated laws and executive orders.
Via the Associated Press:
The Post cited a 2008 example of the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused U.S. 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 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.
But remember, the President, who was elected in 2008 when the bulk of these errors occurred, insists this is a “phony” scandal.