At approximately 1:30 p.m. EST on Christmas Eve, the National Security Agency responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union by releasing more than a decade's worth of incriminating quarterly and annual reports, David Lerman at Bloomberg News reports.
According to the heavily redacted reports to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, intelligence operatives routinely emailed private data on American citizens to unauthorized recipients, stored that data in unsecured computers, and retained it long after laws required it be destroyed.
"The government conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority -- surveillance that increasingly puts Americans’ data in the hands of the NSA," the ACLU's Patrick C. Toomey told Bloomberg News in an email. "Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight."
In an executive summary, the NSA concluded that "[t]he vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error. [The] NSA goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws and regulations."
However, in one case, an NSA analyst "searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting." In another, a civilian requested that intelligence be gathered on "the telephone number of his foreign-national girlfriend without an authorized purpose for approximately one month[.]"
In an August 2013 statement to Bloomberg News, the NSA claimed that "[o]ver the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found. [The] NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations -- responding as appropriate."