NSA broke privacy rules 'thousands of times each year,' report says
by Ed Payne
The National Security Agency broke privacy rules "thousands of times each year" since 2008, The Washington Post reported, citing an internal audit and other documents.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden provided material to the newspaper this summer.
The May 2012 audit found 2,776 incidents of "unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications" in the preceding 12 months, the Post reported in its story Thursday.
"Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure," the newspaper said. "The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders."
The paper said most incidents involved unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the country.
In one case, the NSA decided it didn't need to report the unintended surveillance.
In 2008, a "large number" of calls placed from Washington were intercepted due to a programming error that confused the capitol's 202 area code for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt. The information came from a "quality assurance" review that wasn't distributed to the NSA overnight staff, according to the Post.
Separately, an NSA new collection method went undiscovered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for months. The court, which has authority over some of the agency's operations, ruled it unconstitutional.
The audit was dated May 2012 and looked at the previous 12 months.
Responding to the Post's story, the NSA said, "A variety of factors can cause the numbers of incidents to trend up or down from one quarter to the next."
Factors can include implementation of new procedures, technology or software changes and expanded access.
"The one constant across all of the quarters is a persistent, dedicated effort to identify incidents or risks of incidents at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible, and drive the numbers down," the agency said.
The agency released a statement Thursday night defending its programs.
"NSA's foreign intelligence collection activities are continually audited and overseen internally and externally," it said. "When NSA makes a mistake in carrying out its foreign intelligence mission, the agency reports the issue internally and to federal overseers -- and aggressively gets to the bottom of it."
Snowden stepped forward publicly in June to claim responsibility for leaking to the media that the NSA had secretly collected and stored millions of phone records from accounts in the United States. The agency also collected information from U.S. companies on the Internet activity of overseas residents, he said.
He fled first to Hong Kong and then to Russia before Moscow granted him temporary asylum despite pressure from the Obama administration to return him to the United States to face charges.
He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, for the leaks.
Seattle Central Community College to offer free class in policing
The office of the Mayor and Seattle Central Community College announced a new partnership between the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Seattle Central Community College to offer a free five-credit course entitled “Introduction to Community Policing.” The course will cover basic policing skills with an emphasis on collaborating with the community, as well as help recruits prepare for exams required to become a Seattle Police officer.
“This is part of our effort to increase the accessibility of the police recruitment process through our SPD: 20/20 reform initiative,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “We plan to hire 300 new officers over the next five years. We want to make sure that if you're a member of our community interested in being one of those officers, you have the tools you need to accomplish that goal.”
The course will be offered in the evening at Seattle Central Community College beginning with the fall quarter. Because it is an accredited course, interested students need to enroll at Seattle Central. Current students can simply sign up for the class through the regular registration process.
“This partnership between Seattle Community Colleges and the Seattle Police Department will help students prepare for a career in law enforcement,” said SCCC President Paul Killpatrick. “Because Seattle Central has a diverse student body which reflects its neighborhood, we hope the class will draw some of these students into police work. A diverse police force better reflects the community it serves and protects.”
Though college officials anticipate that the course will fill up quickly — only 25 slots are available in the fall class at Seattle Central Community College — SPD and the Seattle Community Colleges District hope to expand their partnership to other campuses in the coming quarters.
“We want to make sure we're getting the best and the brightest,” said Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz. “This course will help broaden our applicant pool and make sure our recruits are better prepared when they take the police exam. We look forward to partnering further with the Seattle Community Colleges District.”