The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.
“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official said in an interview, speaking with White House permission on the condition of anonymity.
“You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” he said. “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.”
This one goes in the record book of “responses that narrowly address the sub-topic at hand while utterly ignoring the context.” So, yes, you should feel reassured that when the NSA mishandles the personal data they got by spying on you thousands of times per year, don’t worry, that’s dwarfed by the enormous amount of time they use the personal data they got by spying on you for “legitimate” purposes.
Mockery of inept spokespeople aside, this is actually a serious problem. Because, of course, the NSA is a big, human organization, and some people in the NSA will be careless, some will be stupid, and some will be corrupt. And there’s no way to get around that in an organization that size. But that’s exactly the reason that we should be worried about the NSA petabyte on petabyte of sensitive information about billions of innocent people.