The National Security Agency inadvertently collected data from innocent Americans in 2009, including private email messages and phone conversations, prompting a review by Attorney General Eric Holder in the way the agency manages its domestic surveillance program, NBC News reported Friday:
Ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, who served as President Obama’s DNI in 2009 and 2010, told NBC News that, in one instance in 2009, analysts entered a phone number into agency computers and “put one digit wrong,” and mined a large volume of information about Americans with no connection to terror. The matter was reported to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose judges required that all the data be destroyed, he said.
Another former senior official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Blair’s recollection and said the incident created serious problems for the Justice Department, which represents the NSA before the federal judges on the secret court.
President Barack Obama reacted Friday to reports that the NSA is collecting millions of phone log records and tapping into data from leading tech companies, insisting that the government is not eavesdropping on anyone’s phone calls.
“When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program’s about,” Obama said at an event in San Jose, California. “As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at peoples’ names and they’re not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who may engage in terrorism.”