Documents show NSA over-collected phone data for a second time

By Daniel Uria

June 26 (UPI) -- The National Security Agency's phone data collection program experienced a glitch that caused it to over-collect records, months after agreeing to purge records from a similar incident, according to documents released Wednesday.

The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that NSA technical analysts observed an anomaly in October that resulted in the collection of unauthorized records.


"These documents provide further evidence that the NSA has consistently been unable to operate the call detail record program within the bounds of the law," the ACLU said in a letter calling on Congress to end the program.

The documents didn't indicate how many records were improperly collected or which telecommunications provider sent the improper data, but the ACLU said the violations had a "significant impact" on privacy and civil rights and noted affected Americans weren't told of the breach.

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In June of 2018, the NSA said it would eliminate nearly 700 million call detail records acquired beginning in 2015 due to technical irregularities that caused it to receive unauthorized data such as the date and time of phone calls or texts, but not their content.


After disclosing the incident, the NSA stated it had addressed the problem's root cause, prior to the second incident in October.

"The technical irregularities that led NSA to delete data last summer were identified and addressed," an NSA representative said. "Since that time, NSA identified additional data integrity and compliance concerns caused by the unique complexities of using company generated business records for intelligence purposes."

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ACLU staff attorney Patrick Toomey said there is "no justification" for allowing the NSA to continue the program.

"These documents further confirm that this surveillance program is beyond redemption and a privacy and civil liberties disaster," Toomey said. "The NSA's collection of Americans' call records is too sweeping, the compliance problems too many and evidence of the program's value all but nonexistent."

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