(USA TODAY) - The nation's top intelligence official on Wednesday declassified
three secret U.S. court opinions and other classified documents that
reveal how the National Security Agency intercepted thousands of e-mails
from Americans with no connection to terrorism.
National Intelligence James Clapper authorized the release and the
agency published the documents on a newly created tumblr page dubbed IC on the Record.
latest revelations come amid growing criticism from members of Congress
and privacy groups about the NSA surveillance programs and charges that
the agency has far overstepped its bounds in collecting information on
U.S. citizens. There are already bipartisan efforts in Congress to rein
in the programs and increase oversight of the intelligence agencies.
declassification of documents also follows President Obama's call on
Clapper in June to release more information about U.S. surveillance
programs in response to public outcry, triggered by former National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's leaking of details of
previously secret intelligence gathering programs.
Some of the documents shine a harsh light on how the NSA operated.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, authorized to oversee
surveillance requests, first learned in 2011 of problems involving
"upstream collection" that led to the intelligence community unlawfully
scooping up thousands of emails from U.S. accounts over a three-year
period. One opinion shows that the NSA reported to the FISA court in
2011 that it inadvertently collected as many as 56,000 Internet
communications by Americans with no collection to terrorism.
the strongly worded 86-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates, who
was then the court's chief judge, wrote that the "volume and nature of
the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from
what the court had been led to believe."
Bates blasted the NSA for
mishandling thousands of emails from Americans over a three-year
period. The emails were picked up through a program designed to search
the contents of internal communications that mentioned foreigners under
surveillance by the U.S.intelligence agencies, but unlawfully picked up
as many as 56,000 emails from Americans living in the U.S.
Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the latest revelation underscores the
need for greater oversight of the intelligence community. Blumenthal has
proposed legislation calling for a special advocate to represent the
public's interest in the secret FISA court proceedings.
question is how many other such unconstitutional practices occurred
without the court knowing, and without a special advocate to blow the
whistle?" Blumenthal said. "This highly intrusive breach highlights the
need for reforming the FISA court system to assure greater respect for
Constitutional rights, and to ensure that the American people have faith
and trust in the institutions charged with keeping us safe."
Kevin Johnson and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY