- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2014

The National Security Agency released on Wednesday heavily redacted accounts of unlawful or improper surveillance conducted since Sept. 11, 2001, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The documents confirm that communications to, from, or about U.S. citizens were “inadvertently” collected, often as the result of “overly broad or poorly constructed data queries” for many of the violations, although it also mentions that “misuse” of government surveillance — several of which reportedly were federal employees improperly obtaining information about their spouses or significant others.

The agency cited 12 instances of “intentional misuse” that occurred between Jan. 1, 2003 and Sept. 11, 2013, though the amount of redacted material in the documents makes it difficult to discern the actual number of violations over the time frame or which ones were unlawful.

The NSA said most cases involved “unintentional technical or human error” and that any deliberate breaches were handled with “appropriate disciplinary or administrative action.”

“By emphasizing accountability across all levels of the enterprise, and transparently reporting errors and violations to outside oversight authorities, NSA protects privacy and civil liberties while safeguarding the nation and our allies,” the agency said in a statement.

Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, countered in a statement that the conduct demonstrates “an urgent need for greater oversight.”

The NSA files such reports with the president’s Intelligence Oversight Board, but latest documents were only publicly disclosed as a result of the ACLU’s lawsuit and were heavily redacted.

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