The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 24, 2013

NSA analysts intentionally abused spying powers multiple times


The compilation of willful violations, while limited, contradicts repeated assertions that no deliberate abuses occurred.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, said during a conference in New York on Aug. 8 that "no one has willfully or knowingly disobeyed the law or tried to invade your civil liberties or privacy."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers R-Mich. and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have defended the NSA.

Feinstein said in an Aug. 16 statement that her committee "has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes."

Rogers said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on July 28 that there were "zero privacy violations" in the agency's collection of phone records of Americans.

The lawmakers' staffs since have parsed the comments by their bosses, distinguishing between violations of the law governing electronic surveillance and the deliberate violations of the 1981 executive order.

Susan Phalen, a spokeswoman for Rogers, said in an Aug. 16 statement that Rogers meant there hadn't been "willful and intentional violations of law."

Feinstein meant there hadn't been any intentional violations of the NSA's authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to her office.

John DeLong, the NSA's director of compliance, first referred to abuses of the 1981 executive order on Aug. 16, telling reporters there had been rare instances of "willful violations" of legal authority and the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. He said there had been "a couple over the past decades," according to a transcript provided by the agency.

"When they do occur, right, they are detected, corrected, reported to the inspector general and appropriate action is taken," he said.

Intelligence officials have attributed most abuses of the FISA restrictions on the NSA's surveillance of domestic phone calls, e-mails and other communications to technical or inadvertent errors.

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