New Report Shows NSA Spying Breaks Privacy Rules Thousands of Times Per Year

Yikes — a new report shows that the National Security Agency's spying practices have been violating the privacy of American citizens thousands of times per year since 2008.

Audit reports — which were leaked by Edward Snowden, a former analyst, and published by the Washington Post — show that the NSA participated in a number of privacy violations mostly involving unauthorized surveillance of U.S. citizens and foreigners while in the U.S.

The agency was responsible for as many as 2,776 violations in a one year period. So what was the reasoning behind these violations? According to the report, many of the privacy violations were due to small mistakes on the part of the Agency, like typographical areas confusing area code 202 with country code 20, leading to the tapping of an American citizen's phone rather than a target in Egypt.

The largest portion of errors, around 1,904 total, were attributed to what are called "roamers." "Roamers" occur when a foreigner whose cell phone has been tapped enters U.S. soil, where individual warrants are required to listen in on phone calls. According to the audit report, those types of errors are largely unavoidable.

More serious infractions included violating court orders or unauthorized use of data gathered on U.S. citizens or green-card holders for more then 3,000 people.

The report also provides details on how NSA analysts were instructed to rationalize their use of eavesdropping, which was to provide as little information as possible. Analysts were told to scrub details for more vague language when providing reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “While we do want to provide our F.A.A. overseers with the information they need, we DO NOT want to give them any extraneous information,” one document said.

In a statement to the Associated Press, John DeLong, the NSA's director of compliance said that the Agency encourages the reporting of mistakes and makes every effort to investigate these incidences thoroughly. "We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends and address them as well," he said.