Conflict & Justice

NSA spied on Americans to prevent another 9/11 attack, Bloomberg reports


Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, speaks at an Armed Forces International Cyber Symposium on June 27, 2013, in Baltimore, Maryland. Alexander addressed recent developments in the NSA's surveillance programs during his remarks.


Win McNamee

About 10 times in the past decade, National Security Agency employees intentionally abused access to the organization’s surveillance systems to spy on Americans, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.

The admission contradicts previous assurances that the cyber-spy agency did not abuse its power, sidestep the law or override restrictions.

“Over the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found,” an NSA release to Bloomberg said.

“NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct and cooperates fully with any investigations — responding as appropriate. NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities.”

Incidents happened, on average, once per year over the decade and were often “minor,” a source told the news agency. Those behind them were said to be “overzealous” individuals trying to prevent a follow-up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The latest revelation comes as President Barack Obama told CNN that he was confident “oversight worked” to curb potential surveillance abuses.

But in an interview on “New Day,” the president said his administration must do a better job reassuring Americans that their privacy is safe.

“There are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick,” Obama said. “What I recognize is that we’re going to have to continue to improve the safeguards and as technology moves forward, that means that we may be able to build technologies that give people more assurance.”

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the NSA has inadvertently captured tens of thousands of emails and other communications sent by Americans.

The agency said it mistakenly gathered 56,000 emails between 2008 and 2011 from people with no connection to terrorism.

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