Yet again the NSA has been caught spying on Americans.
Last year, the NSA was revealed to have gathered records about U.S. calls and text messages that it was authorized to obtain.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, this marks the second time the organization was caught spying on Americans.
Naturally, this incident has raised privacy concerns about the agency’s phone surveillance program. The previous undisclosed error occurred last October.
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This transpired after a few months that the NSA claimed to have purged hundreds of millions of metadata records it had compiled since 2015 due to a separate overcollection incident.
The metadata consists of numbers and time stamps of a call or text message but there was no conversational content.
The American Civil Liberties Union acquired these documents, which the Wall Street Journal also reviewed, after the group filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit dealing with the surveillance program. These documents are NSA internal memos that were heavily redacted because of the information about intelligence collection activities.
In a statement, Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney, said “These documents only confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and should be shut down for good.”
Toomey added, “The NSA’s collection of Americans’ call records is too sweeping, the compliance problems too many, and evidence of the program’s value all but nonexistent. There is no justification for leaving this surveillance power in the NSA’s hands.”
The NSA’s media relations chief, Greg Julian, refused to comment on the specifics of this data overcollection episode, which has now become common knowledge. Disclosed last summer, this case involved telecommunications firms supplying information the NSA wasn’t allowed to procure.
The ACLU staff attorney added, “While NSA lawfully sought data pertaining to a foreign power engaged in international terrorism, the provider produced inaccurate data and data beyond which NSA sought.”
This recent discovery of a compliance issue is the latest in the saga of controversies that the NSA’s once-clandestine surveillance program has been mired in. This program, which was initiated during the Bush era after 9/11, aimed to collect the metadata of domestic phone calls in America in order to supposedly combat terrorism.
Former intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked the program’s existence to journalists six years ago. On top of that, Snowden’s leaks contained information about other spying operations that the NSA carried out during this time period. These revelations generated controversy over the scope of the American government’s spying capabilities.
What this latest news on the NSA shows is that surveillance state is a very entrenched part of the U.S. government that many people have ignored during the last few decades. It was the only liberty activists that raised the alarms over the past decade. Their efforts were not in vain, however. Edward Snowden’s leaks helped bring unprecedented attention to the issue.
Hopefully, more people finally become aware of this gross abuse of government power.