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Communications

NSA Overstepped the Law On Wiretaps 164

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that legal and operational problems surrounding the NSA's surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees, and a secret national security court, and that the NSA had been engaged in 'overcollection' of domestic communications of Americans. The practice has been described as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional. The Justice Department has acknowledged that there had been problems with the NSA surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the intelligence community, did not address specific aspects of the surveillance problems, but said in a statement that 'when inadvertent mistakes are made, we take it very seriously and work immediately to correct them.' The intelligence officials said the problems had grown out of changes enacted by Congress last July to the law that regulates the government's wiretapping powers, as well as the challenges posed by enacting a new framework for collecting intelligence on terrorism and spying suspects. Joe Klein at Time Magazine says the bad news is that 'the NSA apparently has been overstepping the law,' but the good news is that 'one of the safeguards in the [FISA Reform] law is a review procedure that seems to have the ability to catch the NSA when it's overstepping — and that the illegal activities have been exposed, and quickly.'"

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