The NSA admitted in a statement to Bloomberg News that there have been “willful violations” in the past of the regulations governing its programs that spy in the communications of Americans in an effort to thwart terrorism.
“Over the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found,” the NSA’s statement said. “NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations — responding as appropriate. NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities.”
This statement comes after declassified documents revealed the agency had collected thousands of communications from Americans with no terrorist connection.
Bloomberg said that knowing violations of regulations covering the information the NSA can monitor were recorded in the NSA inspector general’s report. Bloomberg stated that this revelation might “add to the pressure to bolster laws that govern intelligence activities.”
Here’s more from Bloomberg on this latest information that counters NSA Director Keith Alexander’s comments earlier this month that “no one has willfully or knowingly disobeyed the law” as it pertained to these programs:
The inspector general documented an average of one case per year over 10 years of intentionally inappropriate actions by people with access to the NSA’s vast electronic surveillance systems, according to an official familiar with the findings. The incidents were minor, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified intelligence.
The deliberate actions didn’t violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the USA Patriot Act, the NSA said in its statement. Instead, they overstepped 1981 Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan, which governs U.S. intelligence operations.
President Barack Obama acknowledged he must “do a better job” of giving Americans confidence in the programs the National Security Administration has deployed to guard against terrorism.
Obama says the administration should “continue to improve the safeguards” of these initiatives.
His remarks on CNN’s “New Day” show Friday came in the wake of new revelations that the electronic spying program scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications annually over three years by Americans not connected to terrorism.
The president conceded the NSA had “inadvertently, accidentally, pulled the emails” of some Americans. But he also said the programs are necessary, “these aren’t unique to the NSA” and the United States has to adapt “in the right way” to the confluence of terrorist threats and rapidly advancing technology.
It was also revealed earlier this week that the NSA although technically “limited” in its authority to spy on domestic communications, it has the capability to monitor up to 75 percent of all Internet traffic in the U.S.
Be sure to read Bloomberg’s full article for more on the “careful distinctions” lawmakers have used in recent months when talking about potential violations and the NSA’s programs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.