NSA Violated Domestic Wiretap Limits

Agency overcollected Americans' emails, phonecalls: officials
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2009 6:34 AM CDT
NSA Violated Domestic Wiretap Limits
The Justice Department has been investigating the NSA's wiretapping program under President Bush, including its attempt to eavesdrop on the communications of a member of Congress.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The NSA has been listening in on the domestic communications of American citizens well in excess of the limits placed on it by Congress last year, say intelligence officials. The Justice Department has confirmed to the New York Times that it detected "issues" in recent months but said it  "took comprehensive steps" to correct them. 

Officials say the problem, uncovered during a twice-yearly review, stemmed from "overcollection"—possibly accidental—in which the agency may have failed to distinguish between international communications, which it is allowed to snoop on, and domestic communications, which the NSA needs a warrant to monitor. The number of violations that may have occurred remains unknown. Officials in both the House and Senate intelligence committees said they feared the NSA is ignoring the civil liberties safeguards included in last year's wiretapping law. (Read more National Security Agency stories.)

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