(WASHINGTON) -- The National Security Agency routinely broke privacy rules or stretched its legal authority thousands of times annually, an internal audit and other classified documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal. The Post, which received the information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a few months ago, says the majority of the violations have to do with unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the U.S.
According to the audit, the infractions cover the gamut from typographical errors that resulted in accidental surveillance to serious violations that included unauthorized use of data. The Post acknowledged it was virtually impossible to determine from the audit the number of Americans whose communications were wrongly gathered, stored or distributed by the NSA.
The NSA was aware of the Post’s intention to publish the story and the accompanying documents online. One senior official said, “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has not followed through with information about the NSA’s compliance, even after Deputy Attorney General James Cole claimed last June that the agency is kept in check by extensive safeguards and oversight.
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