NSA ‘Mistakenly’ Intercepted Private Email and Phone Calls of Innocent Americans

Somebody fat-fingered the wrong data by “mistake”.

The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program.

……Ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as 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.

……Blair drew a distinction between the “collection” or mining of data on specific U.S. citizens by NSA and the massive trove of phone call information that was turned over to the NSA under a negotiated agreement among intelligence officials, the telecommunications companies and the FISA judges. The purpose of the FISA order was to store information in the event that U.S. intelligence agencies need to access it after getting specific intelligence that somebody in the U.S. might be tied to terrorism. It is only at that point, he explained, that the NSA goes back to the court to get permission to mine or “collect” the data.

But the intelligence community’s distinction between “storing” and “collecting” data does not satisfy privacy and civil liberties advocates. “They are playing games,” said Cindy Cohn, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is suing U.S. phone companies over their cooperation with the NSA. Of the improper collection acknowledged by Blair, she said, “Who knows how many times this has happened?”

It happens “by mistake” all the time. The NSA collects billions of bits of information from cyberspace and cell phones. Most of it isn’t filtered for “terrorism”.

Besides, muslim terrorist operatives can find ways to escape the NSA dragnet.  Osama Bin Laden used couriers.  Neither rank and file Al Qaeda nor his senior commanders knew the location of his hideout.  The courier that led to Bin Laden was uncovered through a series of enhanced interrogations.

The Director of the NSA, LTG Keith Alexander has been in charge of the agency since 2005.  To advance our cyber technology in the face of a growing threat from hostile countries (in China and the Middle East) who are constantly trying to hack into our security, operational, and weapons systems, the Pentagon created a ‘Cyber Command’ (USCYBERCOM) in Utah under the auspices of the NSA.  LTG Alexander assumed the command of CYBERCOM in 2010.

In 2012, during testimony before a House hearing on surveillance issues, LTG Alexander denied that the NSA engaged in intercepting the phone and internet records of Americans.

In fact, the National Security Agency, the FBI, and GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, have been tapping into Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Skype, AOL and the lesser-known Internet company PalTalk, for the past six years.  All of those companies have willingly participated in the PRISM program.  They’re given immunity by the government in exchange for accepting on-demand “directives” from the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to open their servers to the FBI.  According to an anonymous intelligence officer, “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”  They also collect metadata on billions of phone calls, mapping networks of conversations around the world and studying patterns.  It’s not an audio database, it records phone numbers and the length and time of the calls.

Obama was briefed with material gleaned by PRISM on a daily basis.

Any power created for clandestine use can be abused.  The IRS and the DOJ have been transformed into political operatives that target people and organizations proscribed as the enemy. No, not muslim terrorists; the conservative, patriotic, Tea Party groups that strongly and loudly object to the lawlessness of the corrupt little tyrant in the White House.  Obama appoints people who reflect his Marxist ideology and his destruction of America.

They simply do his bidding.

On a personal note:

I’m a retired Soldier and former intelligence analyst who personally served with (then) Colonel Alexander, when he was G2 of the 1st Armored Division in Desert Storm.  I found him to be a highly competent and experienced intelligence officer, an honorable Soldier, and dedicated to the Army and the country.  I cannot believe that he would violate the Constitution we’re sworn to protect and defend, let alone use his position to do it. On the other hand, there is something seriously out of control in his agency and he needs to stop it.

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