While many people were wrapping presents and prepping for holiday dinners, the NSA did its own holiday sharing on Christmas Eve: The agency released 10 years' worth of declassified documents, Mashable reports. The materials, which covered a period from the middle of 2001 through early 2013, are the heavily redacted versions of reports presented to the president's Intelligence Oversight Board, made public after an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. And while the executive summary released by the NSA stresses that the agency "goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws, and regulations," it also notes certain "compliance incidents" that were the result of "unintentional technical or human error," including mistaken investigations into the wrong targets and ill-trained analysts who conducted overly broad searches.
"The government conducts sweeping surveillance ... that increasingly puts Americans' data in the hands of the NSA," ACLU attorney Patrick Toomey told Bloomberg in an email. “Despite that ... this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight." And not every "error" has been accidental: The NSA has previously admitted that there have been "rare instances of willful violations," including an NSA analyst who used her access to pry into her spouse's telephone directory, Raw Story notes. Other no-nos revealed by the documents include data on Americans sent via email to unauthorized parties, stored on unsecured computers, and kept after its destroy-by date, Bloomberg notes. What it all means? More checks and balances are needed from all government branches, says Toomey. (The NSA might not be able to spy on you if you have a new iPhone.)