According to a blockbuster report from Circa.com, a Federal Intellience Surveillance Act court has now found that the Obama administration violated its own guidelines when it radically expanded internet searches focused on American citizens in contravention of law. According to the court:
Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702. The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.
What does this mean in plain language? It means that the Obama administration increased the number of searches involving Americans by a factor of three, and unmasked far more Americans than before 2011. Circa quotes the ACLU as stating that these are “some of the most serious [violations] to ever be documented and strongly call into question the US intelligence community’s ability to police itself.” In October, just before the election, the NSA said that it told the court that it had boosted its surveillance, and even stated in April that the “NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target.”
Since at least Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the nature of NSA surveillance in 2013, Americans have been on edge about the power the National Security Agency has over the communications of the American people. President Trump’s tweet in March alleging that the Obama administration had “tapped” his wires in Trump Tower caused a new round of allegations and counter-allegations.
But now we know that the NSA has again abused its privilege – that they broadened their search patterns dramatically after 2011. Such revelations do little to restore the public trust lost after years of debate over the expansion in practice of the Patriot Act. And they continue to add fuel to the flames regarding suspicions of politically-motivated surveillance.