A secret National Security Agency surveillance database containing intercepted foreign and domestic e-mails includes the personal correspondence of former President Bill Clinton.
A New York Times probe found that an NSA intelligence analyst was investigated after accessing Clinton's personal correspondence in the database, although The Times did not report how many of Clinton's e-mails were accessed or when the interceptions occurred.
The database, codenamed Pinwale, systematically archives foreign and domestic e-mail messages by the millions, "without regard for whether they are domestic or international or have anything to do with an actual investigation," The Times disclosed.
Intelligence analysts have used Pinwale since 2005.
A law enacted by Congress last year gave the NSA greater leeway to collect the private correspondence of Americans without a court order if the e-mail is accessed while the agency is targeting people "reasonably believed" to be overseas.
According to The Times, the agency has difficulty distinguishing between e-mails by foreigners and by Americans, and an NSA spokesperson said "overcollection" of domestic e-mail was inadvertent.
But Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who heads the House panel overseeing intelligence agencies' operations, said that "some actions are so flagrant that they can't be accidental."
An editorial in the Times on Thursday charged that the federal government "has been exceeding its legal authority and violating Americans' most basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism."
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