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The Security Agency Routinely Violates Its Own Privacy Rules

An audit of US National Security Agency eavesdropping has found that the security agency routinely violates its own privacy rules.

According to a leaked, supposedly top secret audit, the NSA violated its on privacy policies 2,776 times in the 12 months to the end of April 2012, with the total increasing each quarter.

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The revelation in the Washington Post follows claims released over the past month by whistleblower Thomas Snowden that the NSA - with the help of the UK's own spy agency GCHQ - had built systems, codenamed Prism, to tap and store vast swathes of internet communications.

The results of the audit, though, prove that far from being isolated, unintended incidents, the NSA regularly oversteps its already wide-ranging legal remit, which is supposed to be overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court that adjudicates on such matters.

At the same time, the NSA has also scooped up communications entirely by accident, and often not reported that American citizens were the subject of surveillance, according to the Post.

"In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a 'large number' of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialling code for Egypt, according to a 'quality assurance' review that was not distributed to the NSA's oversight staff," reports the newspaper.

Indeed, despite the high-tech nature of modern security services' surveillance, one-in-ten incidents was attributed to typographical errors - names and numbers incorrectly transcribed.

The leaked audit was intended only for the NSA's senior managers and only counts incidents at the organisation's Fort Meade headquarters and facilities around the Washington area.

While claims surrounding GCHQ's eavesdropping activities, which include directly tapping transatlantic internet backbone fibre cables, are rumoured to have been quelled with the issuance of D-Notices to the national press, revelations surrounding the NSA have continued to be drip-fed by Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald and a number of newspapers in the UK and US.

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Leaked Audit Reveals That US Security Agency Routinely Flouts Rules