As soon as the extent of the problem became clear, the officials said, the Obama administration provided classified briefings to both Senate and House intelligence committees within days. At the same time, officials also informed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which later issued the three 2011 rulings released Wednesday — with redactions — as part of the government’s latest disclosure of documents.
The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe the program publicly.
The documents were declassified to help the Obama administration explain some of the most recent disclosures made by The Washington Post after it published classified documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden. One of the intelligence officials briefing reporters said the newly declassified documents should help explain “the reasons why people shouldn’t go into a panic over articles they read in the press.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized the release of the report, part of which Obama administration officials acknowledged Wednesday was prodded by a 2011 lawsuit filed by an Internet civil liberties activist group.
The court opinions show that when the NSA reported its inadvertent gathering of American-based Internet traffic to the court in September 2011, the FISA court ordered the agency to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA’s surveillance system can reach about 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, citing interviews with “current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data.”
Contributing: Andrew Wittenburg, Cleon Wall; Kimberly Dozier, The Associated Press.
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