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August 17, 2013

New NSA revelations stir congressional concern

(Continued)

The NSA also saw a spike in the number of “roamers,” or overseas, phone calls wrongly tracked in the first quarter of 2012, when those roamers traveled into U.S. territory, which is outside NSA’s authority. The report said the errors may have been due to tracking Chinese who were visiting friends and relatives for the Chinese lunar new year.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

The FISC’s chief judge told the Post that the court could rule only on the material it was given.

“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said in a written statement to the Post. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing (government) compliance with its orders.”

The Associated Press made a request to Walton for that statement. A court official said the judge had no response.

The White House declined Friday to comment on the latest revelations. It directed questions to the National Security Council, and NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden directed questions to the NSA.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the number of incidents in the first quarter of 2012 was higher than normal, and that the number has ranged from 372 to 1,162 in the past three years, due to factors such as “implementation of new procedures or guidance with respect to our authorities that prompt a spike that requires ‘fine tuning,’ changes to the technology or software in the targeted environment for which we had no prior knowledge, unforeseen shortcomings in our systems, new or expanded access, and ‘roaming’ by foreign targets into the U.S., some of which NSA cannot anticipate in advance but each instance of which is reported as an incident.”

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