It's not like we needed any more proof, but documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times every year. According to an internal NSA audit obtained by the Washington Post, there were nearly 3,000 incidents of unauthorized collection, storage, access to, or distribution of legally protected communications between 2011 and 2012 alone.
Allegedly, most of the incidents were unintended. But, according to the Washington post, many were “failures of due diligence,” and others were outright violations of standard NSA operating procedure. Some of the most egregious violations included disobeying a court order, and using unauthorized data from more than 3,000 Americans and legal residents. A senior NSA official spoke to the Washington Post anonymously, and said, “We're a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line.”
Since news of the NSA spying programs broke, Americans have been told repeatedly by NSA supporters that our privacy has not been violated – Not once! However, these documents prove that is simply not true. In addition, NSA officials deliberately left out many details of these violations in reports submitted to congressional intelligence committees, the Justice Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Last year, former NSA Director Keith Alexander said, “We don't hold data on U.S. citizens”, however newly-revealed NSA auditing guidelines don't require the agency to spell out if, when, or how many Americans were spied on. Without Edward Snowden, this information would have been kept from the public and even from the majority of our national leaders. This report shows that nobody is watching the watchers, and despite all claims to the contrary, the watchers are, in fact, watching us.