The National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance program has reportedly violated US law thousands of times each year for the past five years.
The Washington Post is making this claim based on information provided to it by NSA leader/whistleblower Edward Snowden who originally revealed the massive scope of the PRISM spying program — an initiative that apparently includes the cooperation of major tech companies — back in June. Snowden, who has been charged by federal prosecutors with espionage, theft, and conversion of government property, is now in Russia where he has received asylum.
Federal government officials from President Obama on down have insisted that there is no domestic spying program going on.
Privacy advocates and civil libertarians across the political spectrum have strenuously argued, however, that NSA electronic surveillance of ordinary citizens violates the 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures
According to the Post, “The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents. Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.”
The Post indicates that the audit that it apparently obtained from Snowden “counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to, or distribution of legally protected communications.”
According to an unnamed NSA official who sought to defend the agency’s actions, “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.”
The owners of Lavabit and Silent Mail recently shut down their encrypted email services as a result of the government metadata dragnet.