Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NSA's Intercepts Exceed Limits Set by Congress

Eric Lichtblau and James Risen write in The New York Times:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.

The legal and operational problems surrounding the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees, and a secret national security court, said the intelligence officials, who were speaking only on the condition of anonymity because N.S.A. activities are classified. A series of classified government briefings have been held in recent weeks in response to a brewing controversy that some officials worry could damage the credibility of legitimate intelligence-gathering efforts.

The Justice Department, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, acknowledged in a statement on Wednesday night that there had been problems with the N.S.A. surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved.

More here.


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