NSA collected non-terrorism related emails By REID J. EPSTEIN | 8/21/13 3:16 PM EDT Updated: 8/21/13 4:25 PM EDT
The National Security Agency began improperly collecting Americans’ electronic communications that had no connection to terrorism in 2008, but the government didn’t learn of the problem until 2011, senior administration officials said Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will release three documents that reveal the extent of the error, posting them on a .
The NSA revealed the improper collection of emails to the FISA court in 2011, which demanded a halt to the practice. The officials said the problem was technological and not malicious.
Congress, the administration officials said, knew when it authorized the surveillance programs in 2008 that some Americans would inadvertently have their communications intercepted.
Lawmakers “clearly knew that there would be inadvertent collection of U.S. person communications,” an official said. “This is not a back door or a surprise. That is why they put in a requirement that there would be minimization procedures, because they knew that if you’re targeting foreign people, those foreign people are occasionally going to be in contact with U.S. people. So this is not some back door or anything.”
The problem began as soon as the program launched, officials said on a background conference call with reporters Wednesday. The NSA would collect broad batches of e-mails that were to, from or mentioned an e-mail address of a foreigner NSA was tracking. One official said the NSA would collect entire inbox screengrabs of emails even though the targeted e-mail address may have appeared in only one of the messages.
“For technological reasons, NSA was not capable of breaking those down, and still is not capable, of breaking those down into their individual components,” the official said. “So if you had a situation where one of those emails may have referenced your targeted email in the subject line, you’d nonetheless collect the whole inbox list. Its like a screenshot, you get whatever is popping up on your screen at the time.
”On occasion some of those might prove to be wholly domestic,” the official added.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday wrote the White House to request a briefing for the full Senate from NSA director Keith Alexander to discuss surveillance activities covered by FISA.
“This briefing should discuss the totality of NSA operations, including but not limited to those that have already been discussed publicly,” Corker wrote.
On the background call, the officials praised the NSA for catching the problem.
“You’ll get a sense for the really effective self-policing that goes on at NSA,” an official said. “Any time you have a large and technologically complex operation that involves thousands of people, there will be mistakes, there will be errors and I think you’ll get a sense of how vigorously NSA itself and then DOJ and ODNI look for these problems, identify them, self report them and fix them.”
The FISA court, the official said, determined that the unauthorized collection of these emails was “not problematic” because the problem was technological, though the court did order the NSA to improve its procedures for identifying and purging “wholly domestic communications.”
The FISA court and Intelligence and Judiciary committees were notified within days of the discovery in 2011, the officials said.
“Basically what happened was they were having a discussion and a light bulb went off on somebody’s head and said, oops, this may be a problem,” an official said.
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Re: NSA collected non-terrorism related emails
Why would this surprise anyone with an IQ above single digits? The federal government over the past 100 years has grown too big and strong to do anything that jeopardizes their own power and control over the rest of us. It's about time that people wake up and remove their heads from their anal cavity, but I suspect that's asking for too much. Sheep will be sheep.