The National Security Agency on Tuesday declassified a sheaf of documents that show repeated violations of its own privacy instructions for its bulk databases of Americans' phone records.
The documents, mostly from 2009, describe what a judge on the secret court that oversees surveillance said was the improper access of "thousands" of Americans' phone numbers by government counterterrorism analysts.
They also indicate that US government officials, including NSA director Keith Alexander, gave misleading statements to the court about how they carried out that surveillance.
Judge Reggie Walton, now the court's presiding judge, was so concerned by the scale of the violations that he considered shutting the program down.
Despite repeated public assurances of NSA competence, the agency told the so-called Fisa court in 2009 that "from a technical standpoint, there was no single person who had a complete understanding" of its phone records "architecture".