(Page 2 of 3)
In Congress, meanwhile, only some lawmakers fully understand the programs they have repeatedly authorized and are supposed to be overseeing. For instance, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the sponsors of the USA Patriot Act, has said he never intended it to be used to collect and store the phone records of every American.
And when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked whether the government was doing that, he testified, "No." Yet Snowden's revelations, published in Britain's Guardian newspaper, show that is what happened.
There is no evidence in the new documents suggesting the NSA used its surveillance powers to spy on Americans for political purposes, a fear of many critics who recall the FBI's intrusive monitoring of civil rights leaders and anti-war protesters in the 1960s. Instead, the documents blame the years of government overreaching on technical mistakes, misunderstandings and lack of training.
From 2006 through early 2009, for instance, the NSA's computers reached into the database of phone records and compared them with thousands of others without "reasonable, articulable suspicion," the required legal standard.
By the time the problems were discovered, only about 10 percent of the 17,835 phone numbers on the government's watch list in early 2009 met the legal standard.
By then, Walton said he'd "lost confidence" in the NSA's ability to legally operate the program. He ordered a full review of the surveillance.
In its long report to the surveillance court in August 2009, the Obama administration blamed its mistakes on the complexity of the system and "a lack of shared understanding among the key stakeholders" about the scope of the surveillance.
"The documents released today are a testament to the government's strong commitment to detecting, correcting and reporting mistakes that occur in implementing technologically complex intelligence collection activities, and to continually improving its oversight and compliance processes," Clapper said in a statement Tuesday.
The surveillance court was satisfied by those improvements; it allowed the NSA to continue collecting phone records every day, a practice that continues today.
Now, the Obama administration is fending off lawsuits and a push in Congress to rein in the surveillance.
An unusual coalition of liberal Democrats and Republican civil libertarians has proposed several bills that would either scrap the phone surveillance entirely or require more oversight.
President Barack Obama has said he's open to more oversight but says the surveillance is essential to keep the country safe. (continued...)
© 2013 Associated Press/AP Online under contract with YellowBrix. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2013-09-15 @ 4:22pm PT
We should not give up on encryption. It is still our best opportunity for protecting electronic communications. I created ThreadThat dot com to help non-technical users out there encrypt messages and files. It's free and easy-to-use.
Posted: 2013-09-14 @ 12:09pm PT
This was a great comedy piece, I got a good laugh out of it. What will they say next, the dog ate our copy of the 4th amendment and we forgot what it was about?
It occurs to me that at least one man has a complete understanding of the scope of this system, a heroic defender of the constitution, but Obama, et al, are calling him a traitor and a criminal. Perhaps if they quit persecuting this great man, he would simply tell them what's wrong with it.
An aside, interesting that "the nation's most highly classified documents" are all about the wrong being done to its citizens. This level of data mining has to be unprecedented in the private sector, it had to involve a huge effort to put in place and maintain. I can see why they'd want to keep it a secret, but don't they have anything better to do?