NSA breaches privacy of thousands of US citizens
Snowden-leaked NSA audit shows 2,276 instances of unlawful surveillance in a year
A classified internal audit leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor now under Russian asylum, details the agency’s explanations for its failure to adhere to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which broadened the scope for mass surveillance. Photograph: The Guardian via Getty Images
The US National Security Agency (NSA) has breached its privacy rules for the surveillance of American citizens or foreign intelligence targets some 2,276 times in a single year.
A classified internal audit leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor now under Russian asylum, was made public on Thursday night. It details the agency’s explanations for its failure to adhere to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which broadened the scope for mass surveillance.
The audit was published in the Washington Post, which is believed to have received the documents from Mr Snowden several months ago.
A separate document, headed ‘Targeting Rationale’, issued instructions on how to limit information passed to FISA monitors and the Department of Justice. “While we do want to provide our FISA overseers with the information they require, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information.”
The audit details human error or unintended interception of emails or phone calls. Most involved “roamer” episodes, instances when “valid target selectors are active in the US”.
The audit said the reason for the spike in “roamer” incidents in the first quarter of 2012 (when 865 cases were noted) “may be attributed to an increase in Chinese travel to visit friends and family for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday”.
The NSA report also determined that some 3,032 files containing call detail records were in violation of the stipulated five-year retention period.
The audit provides new clarity on the methodology of the NSA and its compliance record. In a statement released to the Washington Post, the NSA noted that statements released by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, in July 2012 had acknowledged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had found that “some collection carried out” by the NSA “was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment”. The office had worked to “address the concerns addressed by the FISC”.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, residing in an undisclosed location in Russia since leaking confidential reports on US and British mass surveillance operations in May, has issued a statement saying neither the views of his father, Lon Snowden, nor those of his father’s legal team were representative of his own views or his situation.
“None of them are, or have been, or are involved in my current situation and this will not change in the future,” he wrote in an email published in the Huffington Post. He requested that media not “exploit the tragic vacuum of my father’s emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news”.
Mr Snowdon recently obtained travel documents and is understood to be planning a visit to his son in Russia.
He said in a television interview he was unhappy with President Obama’s comments last Friday suggesting that his son return to the United States to make his case in court.