No one could have predicted that if Congress retroactively legalized illegal domestic surveillance and set up a new legal infrastructure for spying on Americans that the NSA wouldn’t find a way to still illegally spy on Americans without warrant.
The N.S.A. is believed to have gone beyond legal boundaries designed to protect Americans in about 8 to 10 separate court orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to three intelligence officials who spoke anonymously because disclosing such information is illegal. Because each court order could single out hundreds or even thousands of phone numbers or e-mail addresses, the number of individual communications that were improperly collected could number in the millions, officials said. (It is not clear what portion of total court orders or communications that would represent.)
“Say you get an order to monitor a block of 1,000 e-mail addresses at a big corporation, and instead of just monitoring those, the N.S.A. also monitors another block of 1,000 e-mail addresses at that corporation,” one senior intelligence official said. “That is the kind of problem they had.”
While there may be some further investigating by Congress into how this happened, I wouldn’t hold my breath that either FISA will be returned to its pre-Bush era strength or that the people responsible for illegally spying on Americans will be held to account.