What NSA Transparency Looks Like
Disclosures by the spy agency about violations of privacy rules have been almost entirely redacted.
Last week, the Washington Post published an internal audit finding the NSA had violated privacy rules thousands of times in recent years.
In response, the spy agency held a rare conference call for the press maintaining that the violations are “not willful” and “not malicious.”
It’s difficult to fully evaluate the NSA’s track record, since the agency has been so tight-lipped on the topic.
What information about rule violations has the agency itself released? Take a look:
That is the publicly released version of a semiannual report from the administration to Congress describing NSA violations of rules surrounding the FISA Amendments Act. The act is one of the key laws governing NSA surveillance, including now-famous programs like Prism.
As an oversight measure, the law requires the attorney general to submit semiannual reports to the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees.
The section with the redactions above is titled “Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents.”
One of the only unredacted portions reads, “The value of statistical information in assessing compliance in situations such as this is unclear. A single incident, for example, may have broad ramifications. Multiple incidents may increase the incident count, but may be deemed of very limited significance.”
The document, dated May 2010, was released after the ACLU filed a freedom of information lawsuit.
As the Post noted, members of Congress can read the unredacted version of the semiannual reports, but only in a special secure room. They cannot take notes or publicly discuss what they read.
UPDATE 8/22/13: The Obama Administration has now declassified the most recent version of the semiannual report to Congress and posted it online. The document includes some information about rates of "compliance incidents" but is also heavily redacted.