Government reports violations of limits on spying aimed at U.S. citizens

Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post

The federal government has repeatedly violated legal limits governing the surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to previously secret internal documents obtained through a court battle by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In releasing 900 pages of documents, U.S. government agencies refused to say how many Americans’ telephone, e-mail or other communications have been intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – or FISA – Amendments Act of 2008, or to discuss any specific abuses, the ACLU said. Most of the documents were heavily redacted.

However, semiannual internal oversight reports by the offices of the attorney general and director of national intelligence identify ongoing breaches of legal requirements that limit when Americans are targeted and minimize the amount of data collected.

The documents note that although oversight teams did not find evidence of “intentional or willful attempts to violate or circumvent the law . . . certain types of compliance incidents continue to occur,” as a March 2009 report stated.

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