One of the key deflections over the ethical questions related to domestic spying by the government is that “it’s legal.” Stated ad nauseum, this defense was supposed to reduce violations of Fourth Amendment protected privacy to technical misunderstandings. However, it turns out the NSA did, in fact, go beyond technical limits by violating court orders.
National Security Agency officials violated secret federal court orders authorizing the daily collection of domestic email and telephone data from hundreds of millions of Americans, according to previously top-secret documents made public Wednesday by the Obama administration.
The documents didn’t disclose specific details of the violations. But they said that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court imposed temporary restrictions on the programs after it learned of the violations until it was satisfied the NSA had revamped its procedures to conform to court requirements.
The NSA could not even comply with a secret court that rarely, if ever, does not grant the government’s request to transgress on Constitutionally protected liberties.The information comes from the selectively declassified documents on the NSA spying program.
The letter, one of the three documents that the administration declassified and released on Wednesday, revealed that an undisclosed number of “technical compliance problems and human implementation errors in these two bulk collection programs were discovered as a result of Department of Justice reviews and NSA oversight.”
“Neither the Department, NSA nor the FISA court has found any intentional or bad-faith violations,” the letter said.
Don’t panic. The secret unconstitutional program the NSA is running that is overseen by a secret panel of right-wing judges only had a few technical compliance problems. Back to sleep America, nothing to see here.
But one is forced to wonder to how out of control this spying program really is. If the NSA can not even comply with the parameters of a secret gang of right-wing judges where the only litigant is the government and requests for more power are almost always approved – how far gone is privacy?