The National Security Agency (NSA) has internal and court-approved procedures that are supposed to prevent the surveillance of Americans and they’ve been laughable ever since they were introduced.
According to a report released this week by the Office of the Inspector General, the intelligence agency has not been strictly following those rules.
We obtained a copy of the report for you here.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows intelligence agencies to gather foreigners’ communications, including emails and phone calls, without having to get warrants.
The law does prohibit the surveillance of Americans. But, it has a massive loophole that allows intelligence agencies to search for information on Americans if “a query is reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information.”
This loophole is very easily exploited.
In the report, the Inspector General “revealed a number of concerns involving identifiers used as query terms against FISA Section 702 data.”
Investigators for the NSA’s office of the inspector general found out that queries in the database for search terms, or “selectors,” for Americans “did not always follow NSA procedural and policy requirements.”
Additionally, a tool that automatically blocks queries with US persons selectors did block some selectors.
Civil liberties and privacy activists insist that Section 702 should be amended to require intelligence agencies to get warrants before searching for any information on an American citizen. The groups argue that such surveillance on Americans is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.