NSA IG Report Reveals Analyst Conducted Unauthorized Collection of U.S. Communications

November 1, 2022

A newly released 2016 report by the National Security Agency Office of Inspector General (NSA IG) revealed that an experienced NSA analyst had “acted with reckless disregard” in collecting communications from people and organizations within the United States, in violation of agency regulations and potentially statutory law governing surveillance programs. The heavily redacted report, which arose out of internal NSA whistleblower reports just before the Edward Snowden disclosures in 2013, was released by the U.S. government in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.  

According to the IG report, an NSA analyst developed a novel surveillance technique that the Inspector General found “resulted in, or at least was reasonably likely to result in” the collection of U.S. person information. Although the analyst adamantly denied knowingly collecting U.S. person information in violation of agency rules and statutory law, other NSA employees raised concerns with superiors over this collection, eventually filing a complaint with the NSA IG.  

The Inspector General further found that many of the oversight officials and agency management tasked with ensuring compliance with surveillance rules did not understand what the agent was doing and at times gave him conflicting guidance on the propriety of the technique. The report concluded with a set of redacted recommendations, and it is unclear what action was taken against the analyst or his superiors.  

EPIC has long advocated for more meaningful surveillance oversight and fought for public access to records about the government’s surveillance activities. In 2013, EPIC brought a challenge to the NSA telephone record collection program in the Supreme Court and has appeared more recently as amicus in cases concerning the ability of individuals to challenge national security surveillance. 

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