The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
This is from a document Snowden provided to the Post earlier this year. As usual with Barton Gellman’s stories, it’s not clear if Snowden put an embargo on the document, or if the Post chose to sit on it until now. My guess is that Snowden is controlling the flow, and that he’s keeping the more damning revelations back to try to catch officials in lies, but that’s just a guess.
One of the questions this raises is the error rate at the NSA–if it screws up thousands of times a year, how many requests does it process in a year?
Also in the Post this morning, the chief judge of the FISC says he “lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules”.