Two former U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive trawling program previously scooped up the private email messages and phone calls of innocent Americans with no ties to terrorism. This prompted the Obama Justice Department to destroy the data.
Ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as President Obama’s DNI in 2009 and 2010, told NBC News that, in one instance in 2009, analysts entered a phone number into agency computers and “put one digit wrong,” and mined a large volume of information about Americans with no connection to terror. The matter was reported to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose judges required that all the data be destroyed, he said.
Another former senior official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Blair’s recollection and said the incident created serious problems for the Justice Department, which represents the NSA before the federal judges on the secret court.
Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges to redouble his efforts to ensure that intelligence agencies would fix the problem.
A similar instance occurred and was reported publicly in July, 2012.
“They are playing games,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Cindy Cohn. “Who knows how many times this has happened?”