Recently unsealed court documents revealed that the National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections. The violations occurred during the review of overseas intercepts and the Obama administration failed to disclose the extent of the breaches until last fall.
The once top-secret documents detail some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.
According to Circa, one classified internal report revealed that “more than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011.”
The violations were disclosed by the Obama administration at a closed-door hearing Oct. 26 before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, just two weeks prior to the election of President Trump.
Administration officials were censured by the court, which found that the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier exposed an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”
Circa noted that “the admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.”
Officials such as former National Security Adviser Susan Rice have claimed that their actions were legal under the minimization rule changes made by Obama, and that the intelligence agencies were strictly monitored to avoid abuses.
The court found differently.
The American Civil Liberties Union asserted that the newly disclosed violations are some of the most egregious to ever be documented and that they raise doubts that the U.S. intelligence community is able to police itself and safeguard American’s privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
Last fall, the NSA acknowledged that it reported the violations to the court and, in April, suspended searches that violated policy. To avoid additional violations, the agency also deleted data previously collected on Americans.
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