Friday, August 16, 2013

What Happens When the N.S.A. Gets Sloppy

The New York Times puts the Washington Post NSA story in perspective, What Happens When the N.S.A. Gets Sloppy

"The article, based largely on an internal agency audit leaked by Edward Snowden, said the agency breaks privacy rules and the limits on its authority thousands of times a year — specifically, in 2,776 incidents between May of 2011 and 2012, with each ‘incident’ compromising the privacy of multiple people, often thousands of people. Though most of the mistakes were unintentional, the N.S.A. wound up collecting data it was not supposed to obtain on people who should not have been spied upon."

"If the N.S.A. were operating on a more reasonable sense of scale — collecting phone records only on people who are terror suspects, for example, rather than on every American — mistakes would not be as costly. But it has taken on powers that it was not granted by Congress, and it is not clear whether it fully briefs lawmakers and outside officials on its own mistakes. One top-secret memo instructed the agency’s internal auditors not to reveal certain details to the Justice Department.

The lack of oversight revealed in The Post’s report is staggering. The agency improperly diverted foreign data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States for months before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that practice unconstitutional in 2011. The chief judge of the court, Reggie Walton, admitted to the newspaper that the court cannot independently verify what the agency is doing, or whether the agency’s accounting of its own mistakes is accurate, except based on information from the agency itself. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance,” Mr. Walton said."

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