Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor
The instances of reported abuse of our country’s laws by our Intelligence services seems never-ending. The National Security Agency, or NSA is at the top of the list when it comes to violations of our laws and even its own rules and procedures that are allegedly designed to protect our privacy.
Pursuant to a court order in a case brought by the ACLU, the NSA is required to provide a list of its abuses on a quarterly basis. Of course, the NSA redacts most of what it puts in its own disclosures.
“Every quarter, the National Security Agency generates a report on its own lawbreaking and policy violations. The reports are classified and sent to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. It’s unclear what happens once they get there.
Those reports are now online dating back to late 2001.
The NSA has posted redacted versions of the documents to its website. “These materials show, over a sustained period of time, the depth and rigor of NSA’s commitment to compliance,” the agency’s self-congratulatory introduction declares. “By emphasizing accountability across all levels of the enterprise, and transparently reporting errors and violations to outside oversight authorities, NSA protects privacy and civil liberties while safeguarding the nation and our allies.”
These NSA characterizations are not credible.
Even the uninformed observer will be suspicious of the spy agency’s account upon learning that far from voluntarily releasing redacted versions of these documents, it was forced to do so by Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the ACLU. The NSA fought to continue suppressing these documents from the public, even though the redacted versions in no way harm U.S. national security. A court ordered the documents released.” Reader Supported News
Only in Washington, D.C., would anyone, let alone a government agency, claim it is being transparent in reporting its mistakes, when it refused to release a listing of those “errors” until a court ordered them to do so! This is the same agency that the New York Times disclosed in February of 2014 was caught spying on American attorneys working on behalf of a foreign government.
Professor Turley discussed this case here. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this willful violation of the law was only learned through the Snowden document disclosures. So much for willing transparency.
The NSA has been caught violating a client’s right to discuss their legal case with their attorneys in private and numerous instances of spying on individual citizens and what repercussions have resulted? It is hard to find any substantial penalties or sanctions due to exposed or disclosed illegal activities by the NSA.
To further the point that the NSA seems immune to prosecution or sanctions for its illegal activities is one case that was uncovered in the quarterly reports discussed earlier.
“For the most part, the reports don’t appear to contain anything especially new, but I was struck by this particular violation:
The OIG’s Office of Investigation initiated an investigation of an allegation than an NSA analyst had conducted an unauthorized intelligence activity. In an interview conducted by the NSA/CSS Office of Security and Counterintelligence, the analyst reported that, during the past two or three years, she had searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting….Although the investigation is ongoing, the analyst has been advised to cease her activities.
Wait a second. She was caught using NSA surveillance facilities to spy on her husband and was merely told to cease her activities? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to, say, fire her instantly and bar her from possessing any kind of security clearance ever again in her life? What am I missing here?” Mother Jones
While the idea of spying on a spouse or maybe a significant other might not be a danger to National Security, it is still an obvious violation of the law, or at the least, a violation of the NSA’s rules that this analyst was supposed to be working under. As the Mother Jones link above suggests, shouldn’t this analyst be fired or maybe, God forbid, be prosecuted for illegally spying?
Who can forget the case Professor Turley discussed in 2009 when it was discovered that the NSA was illegally attempting to wiretap members of Congress? Of course, Congress was outraged, just like Sen. Diane Feinstein was outraged when it was discovered that the CIA has been spying on the Senate’s computers.
Of course heads rolled when the CIA admitted hacking into Senate computers, right? Uh, no, just a few apologies and the Senate moved on. The same immunity to the law and to common sense can be found at the NSA.
What do we have to do to bring the NSA into legal bounds and prevent illegal and unauthorized spying on ordinary citizens and other agencies and branches of the government while at the same time acknowledging our need to spy on legitimate enemies?
It seems obvious to this observer that the internal controls that are in place at the NSA are ineffective at best and likely useless at worst. Can The NSA or any intelligence agency investigate itself? Are internal agency watchdogs a waste of time?
Would a civilian agency or board set up to oversee these rogue intelligence agencies be useful in bringing these agencies into compliance, and is that even possible in our current political climate?
A quick review before the pop quiz; the NSA admits to spying illegally and not doing anything about it and there are no repercussions. How stupid are we to allow this to happen?
Additional Source: Bloomberg
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