The National Security Agency has time and time again stated it complies with all United States laws when collecting massive amounts of information. Even though former NSA chief Keith Alexander and many others continue to say the agency is not breaking any laws, a newly unveiled document from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court suggests that is not the case. The document states that because the NSA was unable to just collect basic information about emails and other forms of communication, it decided to collect and store much more.
Legally, the NSA can only bulk collect sender, recipient, and time stamp information, but this document shows that the NSA did not follow those restrictions. The NSA “exceeded the scope of authorized acquisition continuously during the more than [REDACTED] years of acquisition,” according to the document. Rather than just bulk collecting metadata–the basic information about emails and other messages–the NSA stored entire messages, something that is strictly illegal according to US law.
The document in question comes from Judge John Bates of the FISA court, and it was in reference to the agency’s inability to control itself when collecting large amounts of data. Now that this document has been partially released, it is clear the NSA is collecting more information than it is legally allowed to.