Privacy News: A decade-plus of compliance reports from the NSA Intelligence Oversight Board

On Christmas Eve, the US National Security Agency (NSA) declassified and released 12 years of reports outlining compliance violations that were submitted to the NSA Intelligence Oversight Committee. The reports, which are required by law, had previously been classified and were the subject of a legal battle between the ACLU and the government. The ACLU brought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to request that the reports be made public.

Although heavily redacted, the reports the NSA released of are vital interest to the public because they reveal a pattern of significant privacy violations and in some cases serious abuses in granular detail. The compliance violations fall into a variety of categories, such as unauthorized targeting, or signals intelligence. The hundreds of pages of documents reveal that some abuses were inadvertent or resulted from a lack of skill or training. Other abuses were intentional.

In one example from 2013, NSA analysts performed unauthorized database queries on USPs, or US persons, something that is illegal. In this instance, the analysts were “counseled by their management.”


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In an example from 2009, a US Army Sergeant misused the SIGINT system to target his wife. In this case, the Sergeant was demoted, suspended for 180 days, given extra duty, forfeited pay, and had his access to classified information revoked.


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These NSA materials deserve to be read carefully and thoughtfully. It is our hope that a meaningful public discussion take place in 2015 around the issues these documents reveal and what can specifically be done to make substantial improvement on the issues made clear by the documents.

WPF will be publishing a more detailed analysis of the documents. Until then, we have included  links to the original documents as published by the NSA. The documents cover compliance reports from 2007 to 2013. We took the information below from the NSA Intelligence Oversight Board report release page,

NSA Intelligence Oversight Board Reports”