The National Agency Security collected tens of thousands of online communications from Americans with no suspected connections to terrorist groups, according to secret court opinions which were declassified on Wednesday. The declassified documents reveal that the NSA gathered up to 56,000 such online communications over a three year period, before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found out and declared such data collection unconstitutional.
This marks the third in a series of the most recent revelations suggesting that the NSA's domestic surveillance is far more sweeping and error-prone than previously acknowledged. Last week, the Washington Post reported on the details of an internal NSA audit which revealed that the agency had broken its surveillance rules on at least 2,776 occasions over the course of a single year. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that roughly 75% of all domestic Internet traffic was accessible through NSA surveillance.
Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden first began leaking details of classified NSA surveillance, the Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that its spying programs are limited in nature and do not target American citizens. During a recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Obama went so far as to say, "There is no spying on Americans, we don't have a domestic spying program."
The president has also repeatedly claimed that NSA surveillance was not being abused, in part "because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law."
"Release of the opinion today is just one step in advancing a public debate on the scope and legality of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in a statement. "EFF will keep fighting until the NSA’s domestic surveillance program is reined in, federal surveillance laws are amended to prevent these kinds of abuse from happening in the future, and government officials are held accountable for their actions."