"Justice Dept. finds National Security Agency improperly accessed American phone calls and e-mails and sought to eavesdrop on an unidentified Congressman in contact with an extremist.
WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency intercepted Americans' e-mails and phone calls in recent months on a scale that went beyond limits set by Congress last year, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The problems were discovered during a review of the intelligence activities, the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday night, and said they had been resolved.
Citing unnamed intelligence officials, the Times said the NSA had engaged in "'over-collection' of domestic communications of Americans." Sources reportedly described the practice as varying from significant to systemic to unintentional.
The agency also tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official told the Times.
The NSA believed that the congressman, whose identity was not revealed, was in contact with an extremist who had possible ties to terror and was already under surveillance. The NSA then tried to eavesdrop on the congressman's conversations, the Times said.
A bill passed by Congress in July 2008 authorizes U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop without court approval on foreign targets believed to be outside the United States.
In its statement, the Justice Department said it has taken "comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance."
The Justice Department did not elaborate on what problems it found.
Once corrective measures were taken, Attorney General Eric Holder sought authorization for renewing the surveillance program, officials said.
"It is not clear to what extent the agency may have actively listened in on conversations or read e-mails of Americans without proper court authority, rather than simply obtain access to them," the Times said.
Domestic eavesdropping has been a contentious issue since 2005, when the Times revealed that for years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NSA intercepted international phone conversations and e-mails involving U.S. citizens without a warrant.
That program ended in 2007, and the following year Congress passed legislation requiring the NSA to get court approval to monitor the purely domestic communications of Americans who came under suspicion."
There are all kinds of tyranny - just as there are all kinds of three-letter-agencies of the government that are totally out-of-control. Pete