Watchdog: NSA Didn’t Follow Rules to Protect Privacy of Americans

Watchdog: NSA Didn't Follow Rules to Protect Privacy of Americans Paul Nakasone Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency (NSA). (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Brian Freeman | Wednesday, 02 February 2022 12:34 PM

The National Security Agency did not adhere to both court-approved and internal procedures meant to prevent officials from using a controversial foreign surveillance law to inappropriately monitor the communications of Americans, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), CNN reported.

The audit criticized the NSA's use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows federal agents not only to surveil suspicious, non-Americans on foreign soil without the approval of a court or a warrant, but also permits agents to access sensitive information and communications of U.S. citizens if "a query is reasonably likely to return foreign intelligence information."

The report, which was given to Congress on Monday, "revealed a number of concerns" related to queries for information from government databases on American citizens suspected of being in contact with a foreign target, according to The Hill.

For example, selector information is required to be documented on a consistent basis, but this was not always done.

In addition, an NSA query tool failed to automatically prevent certain types of queries containing selectors known to be associated with an American.

"The NSA remains fully committed to the rigorous and independent oversight provided by the NSA inspector general's office," an NSA spokesman said in a statement to CNN. "NSA continues to employ measures to assist analysts in conducting their work compliantly with civil liberties and privacies protections. As the OIG included in its report, the agency has in place multiple processes to aid in ensuring query compliance."

Congress enacted FISA in 1978 in order to establish guidelines for the government's collection of foreign intelligence information in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Due to the 9/11 attacks, more amendments were enacted in 2008, including Section 702.