At 1:30pm on Christmas Eve, the NSA dumped a huge cache of documents on its website in response to a long-fought ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, including documents that reveal criminal wrongdoing.
The dump consists of its quarterly and annual reports to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board from Q4/2001 to Q1/2013. They were heavily redacted prior to release, but even so, they reveal that the NSA illegally spied on Americans, including a parade of user-errors in which NSA operatives accidentally spied on themselves, raided their spouses' data, and made self-serving errors in their interpretation of the rules under which they were allowed to gather and search data.
The NSA admits that its analysts "deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade."
The ACLU, which filed a lawsuit to access the reports, said the documents shed light on how the surveillance policies of NSA impact Americans and how information has sometimes been misused.
"The government conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority -— surveillance that increasingly puts Americans' data in the hands of the NSA," Patrick C. Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, said in an e-mail.
"Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight," he said.
The reports show greater oversight by all three branches of government is needed, Toomey added.
The ACLU filed suit to turn a spotlight on an executive order governing intelligence activities that was first issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and has been modified many times since then.
(Image: EFF NSA logo parody (sticker), EFF, CC-BY)