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NSA Breaks Its Own Spying Rules Thousands Of Times Every Year

In June, Barack Obama promised to be as transparent as possible about the National Security Agency spying program that spies on Americans and foreigners alike, grabbing and searching through our information about our telephone calls, emails, Internet use and more, with the information given to the DEA, IRS and other government agencies to begin investigations of Americans in the United States. His Administration had lied to Congress and the American people about the existence of the program before, of course, so we took this new promise with a big grain of salt.

nsa spying postcardsNow, that doubt has been justified. What President Obama didn’t tell the American people, and what the Washington Post has verified by looking at documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, is that the National Security Agency routinely violates its own rules that are supposed to restrict its electronic surveillance activities.

The violations happen many times every day. The documents the Washington Post obtained show thousands of violations every year – and that’s just from one NSA spying center at Fort Meade near Washington D.C. There are many other NSA spying centers in operation, and we don’t have the data on their violations yet.

The data we do have show that, over the last few years, the number of violations by the NSA has increased.

The Washington Post writes that “more serious lapses include unauthorized access to intercepted communications, the distribution of protected content and the use of automated systems without built-in safeguards to prevent unlawful surveillance.” The documents also show that NSA agents were directed to obscure information about rules violations by removing information about them from reports kept internal to the Executive Branch.

Congress has been denied access to this information. Fewer than 10 percent of members of Congress even have a staff member who is authorized to read what limited information about the NSA spying has been made available to Capitol Hill.

Even the FISA court, the secret body that is supposed to give a thin veneer of judicial oversight to the electronic espionage, has been blocked from gaining full access to this information.

In one violation, the FISA court wasn’t even told about a new electronic spying project until months after the project began. When the FISA court discovered the project, it concluded that the new spying was unconstitutional – and was grabbing the content of Americans’ emails.

So much for Barack Obama’s pledge of transparency. He never intended to tell us about this. Only Edward Snowden’s work as a whistleblower made this information possible.

Snowden’s documents confirm the existence of more NSA surveillance programs, with codenames such as Marina, Pinwale, and Dishfire. They also show that, despite Barack Obama’s claim that the programs aren’t used to spy on Americans, NSA agents have been giving standing authorization to use metadata to identify particular Americans in the United States, and track which communications they are taking part in.

In related news:

The top judge on the FISA court admits that the court doesn’t have the ability to question the information given to it by the Obama Administration, and so, it has to merely accept on blind faith that what the government tells it is true. In other words, the FISA court is indeed a rubber stamp on NSA spy programs.

North Carolina State University is joining Big Brother, allowing the NSA to establish a military surveillance data center on its campus.

6 comments to NSA Breaks Its Own Spying Rules Thousands Of Times Every Year

  • Mike

    Why are we so worried about the government spying on us when large corporations and internet social sites gather way more information then the government ever thought of!!…and the people born and bred to be corporate slaves seem to LOVE it!…….It seems that what is bad for the government is okay for our corporate owners…as the slaves we are…there is a lesson written here some place….LETS ATTACK THE RIGHT PEOPLE!!..shall we

    • J Clifford

      Mike, you’re making a false dichotomy in this issue. One of the reasons we should worry about the government engaging in unreasonable search and seizure of our personal information is that corporations are putting data into massive, preassembled packs, and then handing it over to the government under the Patriot Act.

      We don’t have to be outraged either at corporate electronic surveillance or governmental electronic surveillance. The two operate hand in hand. We need to focus on both.

  • briny

    Mike, there are two facets here of this major problem. Firstly, the Founders never thought that any corporation or other private entity would be able to assemble and maintain, let alone access in “lightning time” any such database on the citizenry, thus no limitations were thought necessary. Oops. Second, there are strict Constitutional safeguards under the Fourth Amendment which have been “legally” bypassed. However, the Constitution makes no provision for one to just allow Congress to pass a law and bypass those strict safeguards. That requires a Constitutional Amendment, which is NOT the process by which this was done. I’d even question the FISC’s right to exist under the Constitution. And if case you haven’t heard, obeying an unconstitutional order, by a uniformed officer of the United States Military also happens to be illegal and a violation of their Oath of Office, so much, if not most, of what is being done under this legal framework is treason to the Constitution. [And yes, I do happen t ob expert on this subject.] In any case, the combination of these two facets, the ability to gather such detailed information and handily access it in near real-time, and the “unreasonable” overreach by the government into this body of information, frames the exact nature of the problem. The solution, well I can’t answer that beyond saying that “fundamentally, we have a failure to communicate” within and amongst the three branches of government added to a failure in responsibility by those self-same three branches and especially the citizenry.

  • briny

    I failed to differentiate between the activities of the two spheres. The private sphere is granted legitimate access, explicitly or implicitly, by the users of these information systems. The government has not been granted legitimate access to this information. When you approve a TOS or EULA, you are signing a legal contract. Now I read the ones I’m presented and have a running checklist of what I’m allowing to be done to me and what I am not allowed to do under those terms. True, most people don’t even bother with that, but under our legal system, and this has been tried before but not, to my recollection, before the Supreme Court. It is a binding agreement, even though they can, and often do [Google, Microsoft, Facebook, et. alia.] behind your back with no notice. That’s legitimate. Hoovering up citizen’s information and sifting through it is not Constitutional therefore not legitimate. BTW, I’d also question doing so with non-citizen’s if living within (legally or illegally) in the fifty states or our possessions. The Supreme Court has had some interesting rulings, nearly on point, concerning this.

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