Recent revelations by the Washington Post have confirmed that NSA abuse of Americans' privacy through unconstitutional warrantless surveillance is far more prevalent than agency requests for information on terrorists. And it has also put to lie President Obama's claims that there has been no abuse of Americans' privacy by the NSA.
“The NSA audit obtained by The Post,” the Washington, D.C. daily newspaper revealed August 15, “dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” Each of those 2,776 incidents may contain up to several thousand privacy violations of Americans, meaning that millions of Americans' privacy rights may have been violated by the NSA with searches unauthorized by any judicial body. The Post reported of one of the 2,776 incidents that “the most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.”
That last incident alone amounts to more than 10 times the quantity of all the phone records the NSA claims to have legitimately searched throughout 2012 in order to find information about alleged terrorists or their confederates. NSA Director General Keith B. Alexander claimed in June 18 testimony before the House Select Intelligence Committee of requests under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act that “in this case, for 2012, less than 300 selectors were looked at, and they had an impact in helping us prevent potential terrorist attacks.”
But the NSA review document did not review every violation of U.S. citizens' privacy. It only reviewed violations based from the NSA's Ft. Meade headquarters. The NSA also has large database systems and staff in half a dozen other locations, including a huge new data center in Utah. The NSA document did not analyze abuse by non-NSA personnel either. Other agencies — as well as private contractors such as Edward Snowden — also have had access to NSA data center information. So the actual abuse could be much wider than the 2,776 incidents last year.
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Photo of NSA building at Fort Meade, Maryland: AP Images