The US National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since 2008 when it was granted broad surveillance powers by US lawmakers.
An internal audit and other top - secret documents provided by American whistleblower Edward Snowden to theWashington Postshow the NSA has conducted unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the US, both restricted by law and executive order. The documents include details that are normally not shared with American lawmakers or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which oversees surveillance. One of the documents seen by theWashington Postshows NSA agents are instructed to remove details and include general information in reports to the Department of Justice and the Office of Director of National Intelligence. According to thePost, the NSA’s unauthorized surveillance ranged from significant violations of law to typographical errors which led to the interception of Americans’ emails and phone calls. In one of the cases, the US spy agency did not inform the FISA Court about a new spying method for several months. The court ruled that the method had been unconstitutional after it learned about it. The internal audit seen by theWashington Post, which is dated May 2012, shows there have been nearly 3,000 cases of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications over the preceding 12 months. “We’re 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, ” thePost quoted an unnamed senior NSA official as saying. The internal audit covers only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other facilities in the Washington area as some officials suggest that the number of NSA violations including other operating units could be substantially higher. Meanwhile, former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden has indicated that the US spying practices will get worse as the NSA would want to use its databases in more aggressive ways. According to Hayden, the US spy agency would want to use an advanced algorithm to sieve through the vast amount of data it had collected on the American people. Such an algorithm would enable NSA operatives, for example, to read the email of every American citizen.