The audit and other material on which the Post story is based came from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor recently granted temporary asylum in Russia. How important is this latest entry in the now-lengthy string of Snowden revelations?
On one hand, it’s difficult to judge whether the violations are a few or a lot, given that the context of the total number of NSA actions against which the infractions occur remains classified.
“You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” said an NSA official authorized by the White House to speak to the Post. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”
On the other hand, Gellman’s story in the Post directly contradicts President Obama’s assertion that the NSA does not overstep its legal bounds.
In remarks on the Snowden revelations at the beginning of a press conference last Friday, Mr. Obama said that despite the uproar in the press “what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.”