New NSA revelations stir congressional concern
FILE - This June 6, 213 file photo shows the sign outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. The NSA has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the intelligence agency broad new powers in 2008, The Washington Post reports. In one case, telephone calls from Washington were intercepted when the city's area code was confused with the dialing code for Egypt. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - This Sept. 19, 2007 file photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. The U.S. National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the intelligence agency broad new powers in 2008, The Washington Post reports. In one case, telephone calls from Washington were intercepted when the city's area code was confused with the dialing code for Egypt. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
New revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 are stirring renewed calls on Capitol Hill for serious changes to NSA spy programs, undermining White House hopes that President Obama had quieted the controversy with his assurances of oversight.
An internal audit provided by Snowden to the Washington Post shows the agency has repeatedly broken privacy rules or exceeded its legal authority every year since Congress granted it broad new powers in 2008.
In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – reports used as the basis for informing Congress.
Obama has repeatedly said that Congress was thoroughly briefed on the programs revealed by Snowden in June, but some senior lawmakers said they had been unaware of the NSA audit until they read the news yesterday. The programs described earlier vacuum up vast amounts of metadata – such as telephone numbers called and called from, the time and duration of calls – from most Americans’ phone records, and scoop up global internet usage data.
White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that the NSA documents showed that NSA’s Compliance Office established in 2009 “is monitoring, detecting, addressing and reporting compliance incidents,” and that “the majority of the compliance incidents are unintentional.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced he would hold hearings into the new disclosures.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said her committee had been notified of compliance problems – not by seeing the internal audit but through legally required reports to her committee.
“In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity,” the California Democrat said in a statement. She added, “The committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.”
But she said that committee would be asking for additional reports in the future, and members would start making routine trips to the NSA to oversee its activities.
Two senators who have consistently raised red flags about possible privacy violations stemming from NSA programs said the new information was incomplete.
“We believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg,” said Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon in a statement. Both declined to provide details, citing Senate rules about discussing classified information.