A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year, according to a secret ruling made public on Wednesday.Beyond the irony of a "secret court" issuing a ruling on a "secret surveillance program," the Obama Justice Department is now fessing up to the program's over-reach in an attempt to "gain control" over the story.
The 85-page ruling by Judge John D. Bates, then serving as chief judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, involved an N.S.A. program that systematically searches the contents of Americans’ international Internet communications, without a warrant, in a hunt for discussions about foreigners who have been targeted for surveillance.
The Justice Department had told Judge Bates that N.S.A. officials had discovered that the program had also been gathering domestic messages for three years. Judge Bates found that the agency had violated the Constitution and declared the problems part of a pattern of misrepresentation by agency officials in submissions to the secret court.The release of the ruling, the subject of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, was the latest effort by the Obama administration to gain control over revelations about N.S.A. surveillance prompted by leaks by the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden.“The court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding N.S.A.’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” Judge Bates wrote.“Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, N.S.A. had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the standard for querying,” Judge Bates recounted. He cited a 2009 ruling that concluded that the requirement had been “so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall ... regime has never functioned effectively.”
In hindsight, I'll take a "third-rate burglary" motivated by politics, over spying on the American people without their knowledge, any day of the week.