- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2022

National Security Agency analysts failed to follow court-approved procedures and internal policies for examining Americans’ data when conducting searches under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to an NSA inspector general report.

The semiannual report to Congress, published Monday, says an evaluation of NSA analysts’ searches of communications aimed at foreigners did not always follow the rules and Americans’ privacy may suffer as a result.

“The evaluation revealed several issues that, if not addressed, have the potential to impact the effectiveness of the Agency‘s internal controls used to protect the civil liberties and privacy rights of [U.S. persons],” reads the NSA inspector general report.

The analysts’ searches were conducted under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which prevents the government from targeting U.S. persons (USPs).

A search of communications such as the text of emails and content of conversations is allowed to gather Americans’ information if the search is likely to return foreign intelligence information, according to the NSA.

“While NSA has implemented both preventative and detective controls, the Agency has not completed the development of a preventative system control that performs pre-query validation to notify analysts of potential noncompliance with NSA query procedures or policy problems prior to query execution,” the report says.

An NSA spokesman said the agency is committed to following the Office of the Inspector General’s oversight and work.

NSA continues to employ measures to assist analysts in conducting their work compliantly with civil liberties and privacy protections,” an NSA spokesman said. “As the OIG included in its report, the Agency has in place multiple processes to aid in ensuring query compliance.”

The NSA’s practice of gathering communications has become a political flash point that could put the spy agency in the public spotlight ahead of the November midterm elections.

Last year, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson accused the NSA of monitoring his communications and preparing to use them against him, which the agency denied in a statement published to Twitter.

The spat with the cable new host irked Republicans, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy plans to probe the NSA over its dispute with Mr. Carlson if the GOP retakes control of Congress, according to Axios.

The inspector general’s evaluation of analysts’ searches could factor prominently into any congressional probe. Alongside a potential congressional investigation, NSA Inspector General Robert Storch is examining the kerfuffle involving Mr. Carlson, according to CBS News.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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