Tonight, the Washington Post reports two big scoops on the ongoing struggles between the National Security Agency, a special court convened to probe the NSA, and the millions of individuals whose privacy and security the NSA violated against all laws.
First, the Post reports on an internal audit showing that the NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year. The broken rules apply to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals living in the United States. The documents detailing the audit were leaked to the Post by former NSA staffer Edward Snowden.
An NSA official spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, saying, “We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.”
Second, the FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), which is supposed to provide oversight for U.S. spying programs, revealed it doesn’t have the necessary power to do its job properly. FISC is a “secret” court convened by presidential order and created to be above political machinations and influence. But even with such a weighty mandate, it cannot trust the NSA to operate transparently in court proceedings.
“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” said FISC chief U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in a statement given to the Post.
“The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing compliance with its orders.”
In other words, the FISC can’t take the NSA on its word that the NSA is actually putting all its cards on the proverbial table.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops. Stay tuned for an article from VentureBeat security reporter Meghan Kelly in a few hours.