What's the NSA to say when they illegally and unconstitutionally snarf up emails they have no business looking at?
For several years, the National Security Agency unlawfully gathered tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans as part of a now-revised collection method, according to a 2011 secret court opinion.
The redacted 85-page opinion, which was declassified by U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday, states that, based on NSA estimates, the spy agency may have been collecting as many as 56,000 "wholly domestic" communications each year.
In a strongly worded opinion, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court expressed consternation at what he saw as a pattern of misleading statements by the government and hinted that the NSA possibly violated a criminal law against spying on Americans.
"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, then the surveillance court's chief judge, wrote in his Oct. 3, 2011, opinion.
The court, which meets in secret, oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law authorizing such surveillance in the United States. It has been criticized by some as a "rubber stamp" for the government, but the opinion makes clear the court does not see itself that way.
Bates's frustration with the government's lack of candor extended beyond the program at issue to other NSA surveillance efforts.
"The court is troubled that the government's revelations regarding NSA's acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program," Bates wrote in a scathing footnote.
Please note the legal language for "liars."
I will ask the question again; if there is oversight, who has been disciplined for this outrageous breach of American liberties? Who's been fired? Who's been suspended? Did anyone even get a sternly worded letter placed in their permanent file?
The simple reason the NSA pulls this crap is that they can get away with it. Period. There are no consequenecs to violating the privacy of American citizens. Congress either isn't being told or doesn't care.
The last two revelations - this one and the leak last week about the thousands of violations by the NSA - should be enough to convince Congress to defund these programs until the NSA is brought to heel.