WASHINGTON - Federal intelligence officials Tuesday released a trove of previously classified documents outlining incidents in which authorities misused a program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the documents, including once-secret opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and other records, "describe certain compliance incidents." The incidents, he said, "were discovered by the National Security Agency, reported to the FISC and the Congress and resolved four years ago.''
In a written statement, Clapper said the compliance problems "stemmed in large part from the complexity of the technology."
In one order, dated Jan. 28, 2009, Judge Reggie Walton noted that the Justice Department had alerted the FISC that the government had been querying the telephone records "in a manner that appears to the court to be directly contrary'' to a previous court order authorizing the record collection and "contrary to the sworn attestations of several executive branch officials.''
In a stinging rebuke, Walton ordered the government to provide an explanation so that he could determine whether the collection authorization should be rescinded and whether those found to be in violation should be held in "contempt'' or referred to "appropriate investigative offices.''
Specifically, Walton asked who within the government's "executive branch'' knew that the process used to query the telephone records included "identifiers that had not been individually reviewed and determined to meet the reasonable and articulable suspicion standard.''
"How long has the unauthorized querying been conducted?'' Walton asked.