The National Security Agency has quietly released more than a decade of reports detailing surveillance activities that potentially violated U.S. citizens' privacy rights.
Covering NSA activities from mid-2001 to 2013, the heavily-redacted reports document possible abuses, including instances of employees emailing classified information to unauthorized recipients or issuing “overly broad or poorly constructed data queries that potentially targeted” Americans.
The agency, required by executive order to submit the reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, posted the information publicly on Christmas Eve in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union.
One of the released reports, from 2012, said an NSA analyst "searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting." The analyst was "advised to cease her activities."
In another case from 2012, information on a U.S. citizen was "disseminated to a foreign partner" before later being recalled and its deletion confirmed, according to the report.
In 2009, a U.S. Army sergeant received punishment, including a reduction in rank, after he used an NSA system "to target his wife," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Civil-liberties groups pounced on the disclosures.
The documents show “how the NSA has misused the information it collects over the past decade," said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. "They show an urgent need for greater oversight by all three branches of government."
The NSA, though, said that the "vast majority" of cases "involve unintentional technical or human error."