US intelligence agencies have violated surveillance laws hundreds of times
US intelligence agencies have violated federal surveillance laws hundreds of times over the past decade. This is according to analysis of declassified reviews and documents by the Open Tech Institute. Violations include over-collecting data, violating attorney-client privilege, and conducting unlawful surveillance of Americans. The research is the first comprehensive list of violations of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA is designed to collect data on foreign persons overseas, but also incidentally collects on Americans. The statute is the legal basis for the PRISM program and the tapping of global undersea fiber optic cables. According to the data, the majority of violations occurred in 2014 and 2015 and were inadvertent or unintentional. Still, they represent systemic problems that result from the scope and complexity of the surveillance program. One of the most egregious cases of unlawful surveillance was revealed in a declassified ruling by the FISA Court. The lead at the Open Technology Institute said, "It took over five years for the NSA to figure out that it had been searching for Americans' communications in upstream collection, which it wasn't allowed to do." This is when the NSA collects data, which merely mentions a target of surveillance, as it enters and leaves the US via telecom partners like AT&T. Several members of Congress have vowed to fight the reauthorization of the section 702 statute until they learn how many Americans are swept up in surveillance.