SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For nearly three years, government officials got hold of data on thousands of domestic phone numbers that they shouldn't have had. And then, according to documents released today, they misrepresented to a secret spy court what they had done, in order to get the program reauthorized.
The Obama administration had to release the documents as part of a lawsuit by a civil liberties group. They show that National Security Agency analysts routinely exceeded their mission to track only phone numbers with reasonable connections to terrorism.
The administration had earlier conceded that the surveillance program scooped up more domestic phone calls and emails than Congress or the court had authorized. But many of the details weren't known until today.
The NSA told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that it had misunderstood restrictions on accessing data once it was archived. But in March of 2009, Judge Reggie Walton wrote that the explanation was hard to believe. He was so fed up with the government's overreaching that he threatened to shut down the surveillance program.
He noted that fewer than 2,000 phone numbers out of the nearly 18,000 on a list that investigators had been working with at the time had met the legal standard under which they could be accessed.
Officials say the complexity of the computer system -- and a misunderstanding of laws, court orders and internal policies -- contributed to the abuses.
There's no evidence that the NSA intentionally used its surveillance powers to spy on Americans for political purposes.
255-v-28-(Ed Donahue, AP correspondent)--Documents show a federal judge who oversaw a secret U.S. Spy court almost shut down the government's domestic surveillance program. The AP's Ed Donahue reports. (10 Sep 2013)
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256-c-15-(Ed Donahue, AP correspondent)-"of its activities"-AP correspondent Ed Donahue reports documents just released show a federal judge who oversaw a secret U.S. spy court almost shut down the government's domestic surveillance program four years ago. (10 Sep 2013)
<<CUT *256 (09/10/13)££ 00:15 "of its activities"