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NSA Got Too Big to Understand: Report
New docs say NSA 'frequently and systematically' abused system
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2013 11:48 AM CDT
NSA's Utah Data Center.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, FILE)

(Newser) – As Edward Snowden's trove began to leak, President Obama was quick to reassure Americans that Congress and the courts kept the NSA's powers and activities in check. But newly declassified documents from the 2009 probe into the agency's wiretapping show that—in 2009, at least—the NSA's surveillance system had grown so large and unwieldy, no one actually understood it. "There was no single person who had a complete technical understanding," government lawyers told the courts at the time. Because no one else could comprehend it, the surveillance court judges at the time were relying on the NSA itself to explain what it was doing, which resulted in them approving activities that were far more intrusive than they realized, the AP reports.

Congress also didn't understand the NSA, so members also didn't know what they were approving, lawyers determined at the time. The documents reveal the full scope of the abuses that led to the 2009 crackdown—of the almost 18,000 phone numbers on the government's watch list, only about 2,000 actually met FISA's standard for "reasonable articulable suspicion" for targeting, reports the Wall Street Journal. Following these findings that the NSA "frequently and systematically violated" its own procedures, the judge ordered an overhaul of the system. The White House says regulations have now been tightened, and software on the NSA's servers stops the agency's analysts from snooping illegally. But, notes the AP, these are the same checks that were supposed to stop someone like Snowden from stealing vast troves of classified documents. And we all know how that turned out.

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
KDickley
Sep 15, 2013 12:49 PM CDT
Our own government has gotten too bloated to control and understand. The government has purposely gotten so bloated, it cannot be controlled or kept in check. They want to control us and thet're doing a good job: enticing everyone to get on welfare and other subsistance they don't necessarily need permandently, giving amnesty for future voters, spying on us with the IRS and NSA.
bluscot
Sep 12, 2013 8:27 AM CDT
Government (at least since FDR in this country) exists for one reason and one reason only - to perpetuate itself. To do that, it must grow; and it has grown and burgeoned at an astounding rate. Eisenhower warned of this in the 50's; but, the onset of "Camelot" and the media's utter infatuation of and subjugation to the Democrat Party, the idea got buried. It's been carried on ever since under every administration save Ford's and Reagan's. With Civil Service Act in place, no bureaucrat or government employee can be fired for basically anything. The shooter at Fort Hood, who has been imprisioned and condemned to death for his muderous crimes has been still receiving his entire government salary this entire time! The government has nothing to do with any service to anyone except itself. Why do you think the vast majority of the government employees have been exempted from Obamacare?
sickdaddy
Sep 12, 2013 2:01 AM CDT
Good job on Obama for cracking down on this when he took office in 2009.