“I think it’s pretty damning,” notes on complainant after receiving the detailsof the NSA’s action over the last few years, adding “This shows a larger pattern that a lot of times the NSA doesn’t alert the court to serious privacy violations, whether they are intentional or unintentional, for years down the road.” As Bloomberg reports, intelligence officials were forced to admit that The NSA for about three years violated restrictions on checking U.S. telephone records for surveillance and misled judges on how the data was used. Between 2006 and 2009, of the 17,835 phone numbers checked against incoming phone records, only about 2,000 were based on that reasonable suspicion standard, officials said. Despite Gen. Alexander’s statement that “this is not a program where we are out freewheeling it,” adding in June that “it is a well-overseen and a very focused program,” it is now clear that “there was nobody at the NSA who had a full understanding of how the program worked,” as one intelligence official noted.
Until Tuesday, officials hadn’t described the period in which the program repeatedly violated court orders. They made public the violations as part of a court-ordered release of documents stemming from lawsuits by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The release included roughly 1,800 pages of documents, including orders from the secret court and government correspondence with the court.
The NSA violations occurred between 2006, when the phone records program first came under court supervision, and 2009, when NSA officials reported to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that the program had been conducting searches using thousands of phone numbers that didn’t meet court standards. Before 2006, it was run without court supervision.
Between 2006 and 2009, however, of the 17,835 phone numbers checked against incoming phone records, only about 2,000 were based on that reasonable suspicion standard, officials said.
The NSA notified the court in January 2009 of the violations, the official said. Between March 2009 and September 2009 the court required the NSA to get approval for each number it wanted to query. In September of that year the court approved revised procedures that allowed the program to continue, the official said.
It wasn’t the first time the NSA has acknowledged violations or that it misled the court.
The NSA said last month that some analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade. Legal opinions declassified Aug. 21 revealed that the NSA intercepted as many as 56,000 electronic communications a year of Americans who weren’t suspected of having links to terrorism, before the secret court that oversees surveillance found the operation unconstitutional in 2011.
The group filed the lawsuit after the government didn’t respond to its requests to turn over documents describing its collection and surveillance efforts.
The government has collected “the details of every call made by every American” in violation of the Patriot Act, said Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who helped write the 2001 law.
“The implications of this flawed interpretation are staggering,” Sensenbrenner wrote in a Sept. 6 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “The logic the administration uses for bulk collection would seem to support bulk collection of other personal data.”
Full findings below: