The NSA and FBI improperly searched or released raw intelligence on Americans or failed to quickly delete information that was intercepted without authorization – procedures that violated civil liberties, according to news reports Tuesday.
The violations during the Obama administration were found in a review of memos that were declassified on July 11 and reviewed by The Hill.
The documents were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act.
According to the report, the documents provide specific information on violations disclosed by surveillance agencies to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or to the Justice Department during President Barack Obama's tenure from 2009 to 2016.
Compliance reports for this year, the first of the Trump White House, are not due until next spring, the Hill reports.
In the memos, the NSA said that the total number of violations totaled fewer than 1 percent when measured against the "hundreds of thousands of specific phone numbers and email addresses" intercepted by the agencies' metadata programs, according to the Hill.
Under Section 702 under the FISA Act, the NSA may intercept telephone and Internet data on Americans communicating with suspected foreign targets, though information collected improperly must immediately be destroyed.
"Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program," Michael Halbig, the NSA’s chief spokesman, told the Hill.
"The National Security Agency has in place a strong compliance program that identifies incidents, reports them to external overseers, and then develops appropriate solutions to remedy any incidents."
However, civil liberties groups said that the errors raise questions about whether intelligence agencies have strong safeguards in place.
"Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant," Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney involved in the FOIA action, told the Hill.
"The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again."
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