NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year since 2008, audit says

File photo: Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A National Security Agency internal audit obtained by the Washington Post has revealed that the agency broke privacy rules thousands of times every year since 2008.

In a great many of those violations, in fact, residents of the District of Columbia were mistakenly targeted for monitoring.

The Post reports that most of the infractions involved foreign intelligence targets and unauthorized surveillance of Americans. The Post says that between May 2011 and May 2012, the NSA reported more than 2,700 instances of analysts illegally collecting and storing intelligence.

Meanwhile, in 2008, a "large number" of people in the District found themselves mistakenly on the NSA's radar. That's because, according to the audit, a programming error led to the interception of calls from the 202 area code.

That monitoring, though, was supposed to targeted the international dialing code 20, which represents Egypt.

In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

The NSA has come under extreme scrutiny over the past several months after former contractor Edward Snowden leaked an enormous amount of details about how the agency tracks and monitors people at home and abroad.

Snowden, the Post says, provided them with the audit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.