The NSA scandal keeps getting bigger. At the heart of President Obama’s defense of the NSA’s practice of gathering our data has been the supposed oversight by Congress and the courts. He tells us we should trust our government to do the right thing with these programs and the data they are collecting. As it turns out, the secret court that was set up to watch over the NSA program has warned the Obama administration that it was overstepping its authority and boundaries.
Fox News – The National Security Agency was rebuked by a secret court in 2011 for collecting thousands of emails and other online details from Americans with no ties to terrorism, according to court opinions which were declassified for the first time on Wednesday.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence took the unusual step of declassifying more than 100 pages of documents, amid the escalating public debate about government surveillance programs. The release comes several days after a report showed that the NSA had violated privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of times.
The defenders of the Obama administration, mainly the mainstream media, will no doubt say this shows the system is working and that Americans are safer because of it. My trouble with this system lies in the following quote from the Fox News story.
In 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was notified of a problem involving “upstream collection,” which is the collection of Internet traffic outside of the service providers. The NSA was collecting bundled email communications under a provision which focuses on foreign Internet traffic. The NSA, though, was not effectively segregating all the traffic from Americans.
The court rebuked the NSA for the violation.
“For the first time the government has now advised the Court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe,” John D. Bates, a judge on the surveillance court, said in October 2011.
The NSA reported the problems it discovered in how it was gathering Internet communications to the court and shortly thereafter to Congress in the fall of 2011.
If I understand the basic premise of what has taken place, it is as follows.
Large and secret government organization reports to secret court that it has violated the order of said court. Secret court then rebukes large and secret government organization for said violation. A slap on the wrist and everyone resumes their former positions.
Does anyone else see a problem with this? Why does the FISC have to rely on the NSA to report if it finds a violation? My feeling is that the fox is having a grand time in the hen-house. He’ll let us know if he does something illegal.Now doesn’t that just leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy?