NSA 'Accidentally' Collected Millions of Americans' Texts And Phones Calls...Again

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Posted: Jun 26, 2019 3:35 PM
NSA 'Accidentally' Collected Millions of Americans' Texts And Phones Calls...Again

Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Despite previously claiming that the agency would not illegally collect text messages and phone calls from American citizens, a report has discovered that in October 2018 the National Security Agency once again violated the privacy of millions of Americans as it "accidentally" obtained an exorbitant amount of private communications.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA collected mass amounts of communications between American citizens last October. 

via Wall Street Journal:

The previously undisclosed error, which took place last October, occurred several months after the NSA said it had purged hundreds of millions of metadata records it had amassed since 2015 due to a separate overcollection episode. Metadata include the numbers and time stamps of a call or text message but not the contents of the conversation.

The American Civil Liberties Union obtained the documents, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit involving the surveillance program. They are heavily redacted internal NSA memos that discuss oversight of intelligence-collection activities.

While it was initially unclear how much information the NSA collected, attorneys for the ACLU say that it is evidence the agency cannot be trusted and should be defunded. 

"These documents only confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and should be shut down for good,” Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney, told the WSJ. “The NSA’s collection of Americans’ call records is too sweeping, the compliance problems too many, and evidence of the program’s value all but nonexistent. There is no justification for leaving this surveillance power in the NSA’s hands.”

Accordingly, "The documents obtained by the ACLU suggest...a situation, where a telecommunications firm, whose name is redacted, furnished call-data records the NSA hadn’t requested and weren’t approved by orders of the secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The company told the NSA it began delivering those records on Oct. 3, 2018, until that Oct. 12, when the agency was asked to investigate the 'anomaly.'"

Likewise, the "ACLU said the documents also suggest an individual may have been targeted for surveillance as a result of the first overcollection episode, which led to the deletion of the program’s entire database in June 2018. The documents reveal that violation involved 'targeting requests' that were approved by the surveillance court."

Accordingly, lawmakers on Capitol Hill assert these "mistakes" are just further proof the NSA is too powerful.

“Every new incident like this that becomes public is another reason this massive surveillance program needs to be permanently scrapped,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), recently said of the NSA's overcollection. “But it is unacceptable that basic information about the program is still being withheld from the public.”