Report: Obama’s NSA Conducted Illegal Searches on Americans for Years

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

A report claims that the NSA under the Obama administration regularly violated American privacy protections while intercepting overseas communications.

Circa reports that while operating under the Obama administration, the National Security Agency (NSA) violated American privacy protections while searching through overseas intercepts. The extent of this abuse of power was not disclosed until the final days before Donald Trump’s election, according to a previously classified documents that Circa alleges outline cases of abuse of power by U.S. intelligence services.

Circa claims to have reviewed a classified internal report which states that more than 5 percent of searches relating to Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s Section 702 database violated safeguards implemented by Obama and his intelligence in 2011. These issues were reportedly disclosed by the Obama administration in a closed-door hearing on October 26th before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court allegedly reacted poorly to the information given to them by the Obama administration, stating that the failure to disclose the extent of the NSA’s many violations at an earlier time amounted to an “institutional lack of candor.” The court also reportedly stated that the searches performed by the NSA presented a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to court documents dated April 26, 2017.

Circa previously reported that under the Obama administration, NSA data searches relating to Americans and a rise in the unmasking of U.S. citizens’ identities in intelligence reports were performed up to three times more than in previous administrations, shortly after Obama altered privacy rules in 2011. These actions were defended by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, but the intelligence court and the NSA’s internal watchdog reportedly disagreed with her assertion.

“Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702,” the unsealed court ruling reportedly states. “The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the newly disclosed violations are some of the most serious to ever be documented and cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence services’ ability to self-regulate and safeguard American citizens’ right to privacy. “I think what this emphasizes is the shocking lack of oversight of these programs,” Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel in Washington, told Circa.

“You have these problems going on for years that only come to the attention of the court late in the game and then it takes additional years to change its practices,” she continued. “I think it does call into question all those defenses that we kept hearing, that we always have a robust oversight structure and we have culture of adherence to privacy standards. And the headline now is they actually haven’t been in compliance for years and the FISA court itself says in its opinion is that the NSA suffers from a culture of a lack of candor.”

The NSA acknowledged the disclosure of the violations to the court, and in April took steps to suspend the types of searches that violated rules and even deleted previous information obtained via these searches. “NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target,” the agency said in a statement published on their website on April 28th.


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