Declassified Memos Show Obama's NSA Spied On Americans Way More Than You Thought

Tyler Durden's picture

Back in May the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) found that the National Security Agency (NSA), under former President Obama, routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall.   

"The October 26, 2016 Notice disclosed that an NSA Inspector General (IG) review...indicated that, with greater frequency than previously disclosed to the Court, NSA analysts had used U.S.-person identifiers to query the result of Internet "upstream" collection, even though NSA's section 702 minimization procedures prohibited such queries...this disclosure gave the Court substantial concern."



The court order went on to reveal that NSA analysts had been conducting illegal queries targeting American citizens "with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the Court" issue which the court described as a "very serious Fourth Amendment issue."

"Since 2011, NSA's minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collection under Section 702.  The October 26, 2016 Notice informed the Court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the Court."


"At the October 26, 2016 hearing, the Court ascribed the government's failure to disclose those IG and OCO reviews at the October 4, 2016 hearing to an institutional 'lack of candor' on NSA's part and emphasized that 'this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.'"



Now, new memos obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) via a FOIA request detail even more violations that occurred during the Obama administration which include everything from illegally survielling people on U.S. soil to sharing unredacted documents that included unmasked names of American citizens.  The Hill reviewed the memos and offered the following summary details:

For instance, the government admitted improperly searching NSA’s foreign intercept data on multiple occasions, including one instance in which an analyst ran the same search query about an American “every work day” for a period between 2013 and 2014.


There also were several instances in which Americans’ unmasked names were improperly shared inside the intelligence community without being redacted, a violation of the so-called minimization procedures that President Obama loosened in 2011 that are supposed to protect an Americans' identity from disclosure when they are intercepted without a warrant. Numerous times improperly unmasked information about Americans had to be recalled and purged after the fact, the memos stated.


“CIA and FBI received unminimized data from many Section 702-tasked facilities and at times are thus required to conduct similar purges,” one report noted.


“NSA issued a report which included the name of a United States person whose identity was not foreign intelligence,” said one typical incident report from 2015, which said the NSA eventually discovered the error and “recalled” the information.


Likewise, the FBI disclosed three instances between December 2013 and February 2014 of “improper disseminations of U.S. persons identities.”

Samples of other violations included:

  • Numerous “overcollection incidents” where the NSA gathered information about foreigners or Americans it wasn’t entitled to intercept
  • “Isolated instances in which NSA may not have complied with the documentation requests” justifying intercepts or searches of intercepted data.
  • The misuse of “overly broad” queries or specific U.S. person terms to search through NSA data.
  • Failures to timely purge NSA databases of improperly collected intelligence, such as a 2014 incident in which “NSA reported a gap in its purge discovery processes.”

Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant,” said Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation. “The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again.”

“If I were still in Congress today, I might vote with the people today to shut the program down or curtail it,” Hoekstrak, who has been tapped by Trump to be ambassador to the Netherlands, said in an interview.

Of course, the NSA would like for you to take solace in the fact that they spy on you so much that the 1,000's of reported violations only amount to ~1% of the estimated "taskings."

In annual and quarterly compliance reports that have been released in recent years, U.S. intelligence agencies have estimated the number of Section 702 violations has averaged between 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent of the total number of “taskings.” A tasking is an intelligence term that reflects a request to intercept a specific phone number or email address.


“Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program,” said Michael T. Halbig, the NSA’s chief spokesman. “…The National Security Agency has in place a strong compliance program that identifies incidents, reports them to external overseers, and then develops appropriate solutions to remedy any incidents.”

Though we do wonder whether our government would be as dismissive if American citizens just decided to keep 1% of the taxes they owe each year...somehow we suspect the IRS wouldn't be so forgiving of such a 'small' error-rate.


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Mtnrunnr's picture

It would be very difficult for then to have surveilled more than I thought.

froze25's picture

Another example of why these systems that are supposed to keep us "safe" are really just tools to oppress us and manipulate us.

Mtnrunnr's picture

One man's accepted behavior is another man's terrorist. Just depends on the algorithm making the decision.

espirit's picture

Wasn't this a Snowden revelation? 


BullyBearish's picture

trumpanyahoo likes the surveillance, thinks it will ensure loyalty...good for him, bad for us

trumpanyahoo likes low interest rates, wants a worthless dollar...good for him, bad for us

trumpanyahoo likes massive military spending, makes us strong...good for him, bad for us


tell me again how he is any different on the issues that REALLY matter?

Mtnrunnr's picture

He's a white guy. That's what really matters.

Ghost of Porky's picture

We need to destroy your freedom to protect your freedom.

Creative_Destruct's picture

The Headline:

"...Way More than You Thought"




Amalgamated Tang's picture

Nixon spied on Larry O'Brien in his Watergate Office and lied about it. He had to resign in disgrace. Obama spied on everyone at home and in their office, lied about it. And was praised.

Anyone catch the disconnect there?

JRev's picture

Snowden is a PSYOP. Revelation of the Method, much?

JSBach1's picture

And many feared that the Patriot Act would lead to such abuse, and rightfully so. Imagine the blackmail material gathered against domestic subjects to date. Is this the reason for the "Russia did it" distractions? They are clearly trying to divert attention, obsessively as it seems.

Chupacabra-322's picture

The National Security Elimination Act of 2017

can't come fast enough.

Not only should the Criminals at the NSA be immediately arrested & the entire Criminlal Agency shut down.

What is more concerning, Chilling & alarming is the Pure Evil War Criminal Treasonous Seditious Psychopaths at the CIA #Vault7 with identical spying tools like UMBRAGE which Mirror the abilities of the NSA.

It's literally become Spy Vs. Spy with these Crime Syndicate.

GUS100CORRINA's picture

Declassified Memos Show Obama's NSA Spied On Americans Way More Than You Thought

My response: So many people have written and spoken about the TREASONOUS CRIMES of the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. Yet, no action from the DOJ and the FBI.

America must be a BANANA REPUBLIC where the ELITE are ABOVE THE LAW.

Now hear this ELITE: YOU ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW. The evidence that this is TRUE is FOUND in the MAGNA CARTA.

Definition of Magna Carta. 1 : a charter of liberties to which the English barons (THE PEOPLE) forced King John (THE ELITE and HIGH RANKING OFFICIALS) to give his assent in June 1215 at Runnymede. 2 : a document constituting a fundamental guarantee of rights and privileges.

Shitonya Serfs's picture

I like The National Security Elimination Act of 2017, but let's also have The National Privacy Act of 2017.

Eliminate all scooping up of personal information from FB, GOOG, AMZN, NTFX, etc. in the name of Marketing/Advertising (which just means collecting personal/private info on everyone and funneling it to GOV).

If this FOIA crap shows how much info the GOV has, imagine how much info FB/GOOG/AMZN have. And we don't get to see any of it. You know, because of "Trade Secrets" and such.

Let's see the full invoices of these "Advertising" payments made to each of these companies. Bet a full audit would show they only get a fraction of their reported Advertising revenues. The rest is from GOV checks.

Then strip these tech-spys of their wealth, their spawns' wealth, claw back every hidden penny distributed to their "Charities", "Trusts", or "Foundations" and send that money directly back to ALL the people whose personal data was collected used as currency to finance these scumbags.

Gotta run. Time to order more shit from AMZN on my GOOG spy-phone.

JSBach1's picture

What really needs to happen, and I hope people do not grow a blind eye to it, is that an investigation spanning Bush-Obama terms should interrogate the devolution of this ominous act, disguised in sheep's clothing, and pin-point where, how, by whom, and to what degree these foreseeable abuses took place.

Without such an exercise we may never rid ourselves entirely of its clutches, notwithstanding the National Security Elimination Act of 2017 you mentioned or any other proposed legislation.

Chupacabra-322's picture

@ JS,



Tyrannically Lawless.

JSBach1's picture

Absent sufficient numerical intervention by concerned citizens, what is left really? We try to work within the given confines to the extent possible. In an ideal world this government tyranny would be overrun already. See any practical evidence of that? I thought not.

sagramore's picture

They will turn off the Internet and replace it with Ceefax / Mintel / AOL walled gardens.  

I'll just take courses at community college to get an email account again.

Winston Churchill's picture

The Patriot act just codified what they'd been doing for decades previous.

I got the $5 tour around Chicksands(NSA) and GCHQ in the early 70's.

Only the volume has changed, they were snooping then as well.Everything.

JSBach1's picture

The mere expansion of electronic surveillance whIe minimizing court oversight would give one second thoughts at the very least, notwithstanding the various other expansions and infractions including those in the sunset-provision. What is clear is that 911 gave the government both the incentive as well as the opportunity to further its unscrupulous reach.

Eyes Opened's picture

Algorithms don't kill people... PEOPLE kill people...

Urban Roman's picture

Yeah, me too. No news here from "declassified documents".

We already knew from Snowden and others that they are capturing every packet. How much more surveilled can you get?

Nobody For President's picture

Yep. This is just tip of the iceberg shit.

Simplifiedfrisbee's picture

Stupid racist morons. So when the Bush administration spied, the right was all for it citing patriotism and freedom ain't free! But when the Obama administration spied, it's considered a Muslim, black, evil take over. Stupid fools! I love how ignorant you lizards are.

The right wing oligarch internet propaganda is here. Fuck you Tylers! Russian piece of shit.

qwertyFUBAR's picture

> It would be very difficult for then to have surveilled more than I thought.

My thought exactly.
How do they know what we thought?
Are they spying on us?
And how do they know you and I thought the same thing?
Are we all brains in jars watching television?

JRobby's picture

This is a real surprise..............

847328_3527's picture

I can't wait until they catch Hussein trying to sneak out of the country with his pet wookie back to Kenya or Indonesia. Both of them disguised as women.

espirit's picture

Isn't there a 6 month quarrantine on pets?

itstippy's picture

Idiotic comment.  The fact that you got upvotes for it is an embarrasment to ZeroHedge readers.

LauraB's picture

Imagine my shock! ;)

GunnerySgtHartman's picture

What was that I heard someone say about the NSA being above the law? ...

rubiconsolutions's picture

Just curious if Trump has shut down any of these programs. All it would take is an EO right? 

Rusty Trombone's picture

Exactly. Too bad the Orange turd is too busy snorting coke and Tweeting like a 13 year old girl at 330am.


Kabuki theatre.

itstippy's picture

Another idiotic comment.  Where do you people come from?

Mute Button's picture

Could you imagine how much a pay-per-view firing squad of Hussein would bring in?

Jayda1850's picture

And Trump is all for keeping this surveillance. Trump supporters use the same line as Obama supporters: "Well if you have nothing to hide."  Hypocrites.

just the tip's picture

unless it be surveillance of him.

gaoptimize's picture

If Trump is continuing, why doesn't he hire someone equivalent to Queen Elizabeth's Lord Walthingham to use this surveillance to drain the swamp with prejudice?

Stan522's picture

Bullshit.... The problem we have is that incrementally up to obama, we have been losing our Fourth Amendment rights. Under obama is leaped into the abyss of tyranny. If Trump does half of what obama has done, it would be twice that it should.

Tyranny is tyranny no matter who holds office....

froze25's picture

Don't let Bush Sr,Jr and Clinton off the hook Obama just continued and expanded their programs that had "Bi-partisan" support.

Stan522's picture

I did not... Bush led up to obama. His Patriot Act gave obama permission to break the law for political gain. The devilcRAT party allowed him to do it and all of them are controlled by the deep state, which rules over all of us now. They are who is behind the Trump HATER's

Simplifiedfrisbee's picture

Hypocrites! The deep state is 10 inches deep in Trumps ass. But if it benefits a select(conservative Christian white) group then disregard the consequences.

SybilDefense's picture

Do not discount the repeal of the Smith Mundt Act in July 2013 (Obama term 2), allowing propaganda to be used on American soil, effectively creating the fake news eruption to as Obama often said "to shape the American Public".  R Mac Thornberry snuck this bill in and is a huge proponent of increased US surveillance on US soil.  All for the greater good.  Have a look at this "freedom fighter's" voting record. 

Stan522's picture

NOTHING will become of this. The deep state still rules...

bankbob's picture

Now we know the truth.  Whenever something goes 'onto the Cloud' it is being copied to an NSA server farm in Provo, Utah.

Seasmoke's picture

Biggest Criminal Ever !!!

TheFederalistPapers's picture

This has the fingerprints of the Magic Negro all over this program.

espirit's picture

Zero was a wet paper bag figurehead.