ACLU Lawsuit Yields Internal NSA Documents: Decade Of “Unlawful, Unauthorized Surveillance” Revealed


The National Security Agency violated US law for over a decade with the unauthorized surveillance of domestic citizens’ overseas communications, according to highly redacted reports obtained by the ACLU in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

According to documents posted on the NSA website Wednesday, the examples of violations include sending data on Americans to unauthorized recipients, storing such data on unprotected computers and retaining them after they were meant to be destroyed between the years 2001 and 2013.

The highly redacted reports reflect the NSA’s internal analysis of its own incidents of questionable legality during the 11 year period.

Some of the milk-toast examples deemed appropriate for public consumption include analysts accessing databases without formal authorization, searching personal telephone directories without peoples knowledge to obtain names and phone numbers, and illegally targeting foreign persons in the United States.

The most incriminating information however has been clouded in technical language or removed entirely for ‘national security’ purposes. This information appears to include personal motive of the analysts involved, the errors they made, under whose authority they were acting, and any disciplinary action they may have received.

“The vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error. In the very few cases that involve the intentional misuse of a signals intelligence system, a thorough investigation is completed,” An NSA spokesperson said in an statment. “NSA goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws and regulations.”

The NSA has became under increasing scrutiny in recent years as massive internal document leaks have surfaced on behest of whistle blowers like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, and the hactivist group Anonymous – which show the monolithic and illegal surveillance apparatus that has been constructed in the Post-9/11 world.

“The government conducts sweeping surveillance under [NSA] authority… Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight.” Patrick C. Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said.

  • Evan Rogers

    If they have to blackout the punishment the people received, it likely means “no punishment” or “pretty much nothing”.