NSA publishes declassified surveillance reports that detail US privacy breaches

December 30, 2014 - 

The National Security Agency quietly published several surveillance reports on December 23 that spanned more than a decade, some of which detailed U.S. citizens whose private information was “inadvertently” breached, according to a report by CNBC.

The documents, required by the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, were published to protect disclosures of sensitive information.

Though entire sections of text were blanked out to omit specific names, programs or occurrences of privacy violations, the documents reveal several situations where analysts “erroneously” collected data on U.S. citizens, or were responsible for conducting less than adequate practices.

One such example can be found in a 2012 quarterly report in which an analyst forwarded an email to unauthorized recipients the results of a raw traffic database query that listed terms related to an unidentified U.S. citizen.

The documents explain that the email was soon recalled thereafter, although it did not provide any further information.

Another example is detailed in a 2013 document where the NSA discovered several cases where a file with “raw [signal intelligence] was improperly uploaded” by unknown personnel.

Many of the security breaches detailed in the documents were attributed to careless data security practices, or muddled instructions that led to NSA personnel mistakenly violating the privacy rights of several U.S. citizens.

The NSA explained in its preliminary statement that “unintentional technical or human error” resulted in several incidents where the agency accidentally monitored certain U.S. citizens.

It also stated that in situations where a breach was intentional, “a thorough investigation is completed, the results are reported to the IOB and the Department of Justice as required, and appropriate disciplinary or administrative action is taken.”

The published documents come a year and a half after the NSA’s top secret internal audit found the agency broke its own privacy rules and exceeded its legal authority thousands of times by spying on U.S. citizens illegally since it was given expanded powers in 2008.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.