Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Breaking News

Local News

August 21, 2013

NSA collected thousands of U.S. communications

Washington, D.C. — WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency declassified three secret U.S. court opinions Wednesday showing how it scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism annually over three years, how it revealed the error to the court and changed how it gathered Internet communications.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized the release.

The opinions show that when the NSA reported its inadvertent gathering of American-based Internet traffic to the court in 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered the agency to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it.

Three senior U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday that national security officials realized the extent of its inadvertent collection of Americans' data from fiber optic cables in September 2011. One of the officials said the problem became apparent during internal discussions between NSA and Justice Department officials about the program's technical operation.

"They were having a discussion and a light bulb went on," the official said.

The problem, according to the officials, was that the top secret Internet-sweeping operation, which was targeting metadata contained in the emails of foreign users, was also amassing thousands of emails that were bundled up with the targeted materials. Because many web mail services use such bundled transmissions, the official said, it was impossible to collect the targeted materials without also sweeping up data from innocent domestic U.S. users.

The officials did not explain, however, why they did not prepare for that possibility when the surveillance program was created and why they discovered it only after the program was well under way.

Officials said that when they realized they had an American communication, the communication was destroyed. But it was not clear how they determined whom an email belonged to and whether any NSA analyst had actually read the content of the email. The officials said the bulk of the information was never accessed or analyzed.

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 secret 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 said the NSA realized that when it was gathering up bundled Internet communications from fiber optic cables, with the cooperation of telecommunications providers like AT&T, it often was collecting thousands of emails or other Internet transactions by Americans who had no connection to the intended terror target being tracked.

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."

The documents were to be posted later in the day on Tumblr, a trendy blogging service which is particularly popular among teenagers and young adults.

While the NSA is allowed to keep the metadata — the address or phone number and the duration, but not the content, of the communication — of Americans for up to five years, the court ruled that when it gathered up such large packets of information, they included actual emails between American citizens, thereby violating the Constitution's ban against unauthorized search and seizure.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Former Pct. 5 JP dies

    Judy Newman, who served as Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace for parts of three decades, died Thursday at age 75.

    July 21, 2014

  • ADR logo.tif City of Tool re-zones property for new Dollar General Store

    After an hour-long  public hearing, the Tool City Council voted to re-zone property located at 1301 S. Tool Dr. (Highway 274) from residential to commercial.  This re-zoning was a required condition for a proposed Dollar General Store.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0122.JPG Broken water main

    City of Athens crewmembers worked in falling rain to fix a broken 8-inch cast-iron water main near the intersection of Barker Street and Faulk Street in Athens Thursday.  Workers believed the reason for the break was the age of the water main. Shown are workers Jonathan Davila, Eric Davis and Marion Klutts.  Also present was Dean Burkhalter.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Mover convicted for stealing goods

    A family’s nightmare finally came to an end on June 25 when John Junior Smith, formerly of Tyler, was sentenced to eight years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for his role in defrauding a family who had hired him to move them. 
    Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner prosecuted the case.  Smith was sentenced in the 173rd Judicial District Court with Judge Dan Moore presiding.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 back to school bash.jpeg Back to School Bash needs donations to help children

    For the second year Leslie Ward has been organizing the Back to School Bash at Cedar Creek Lake. Her goal this year is to provide free hair cuts, immunizations, bibles, backpacks, school supplies and  bags of food to 700 local children.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 CCL ribbon cutting.jpg CCLACC new member

    The Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Friday for new member LaQuinta Inns & Suites in Gun Barrel City. Friends, family and chamber members help Nadina and Reema Patel cut the ribbon. The hotel is owned by Jay Patel and Vimal Patel. Sarah Turner is the general manager of the hotel.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 CCL rotary.jpg Speaker at Rotary Club of CCL

    Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake President Erin Osborn (right) welcomed Pastor Nancy Schoenle as speaker to the Friday Rotary Club meeting. Pastor Nancy is the Director at The Genesis Center. The center is a faith based shelter for women. Genesis provides safety and shelter for victims of domestic violence.  The Center serves Kaufman and Henderson County.  Amanda Michael (center) has lived at the shelter for 10 months. For information The Genesis Center call Pastor Nancy at 972-932-4351.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-18 Athens Rotary guest speaker.jpg Book donated to library

    The Athens Rotary Club donated a book to the Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Memorial Library in honor of the club’s guest speaker, Justin Balthrop, at Thursday’s meeting received a BBA, Summa Cum Laude from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003, majoring in finance and economics. He worked in the hedge-fund industry for six years, eventually in a senior-research position for a multi-billion-dollar hedge-fund firm managing portfolios of fixed income and equity derivative securities. He is currently enrolled as a finance PhD student at the Rice University Jones School of business, where his research interests are in empirical and theoretical asset pricing. Pictured with Balthrop is Athens Rotary President Kelly Driskell and President-Elect Aaron Lemmons.
     

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Gerardo.jpg Gerardo De La Fuente loses battle Thursday

    The Athens High School soccer family is mourning the loss of a former player following the death of Gerardo De La Fuente on Thursday night.
    De La Fuente was a soccer player for coach Jonathan Ryal and scored his first varsity goal in a game back in February of 2013 during his senior year.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-18 Gerald-Ewing.jpg New TVCC coach announced

    A new leader is hired to take over the 8-time National Junior College Athletic Association champion Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals.
    Assistant coach Gerald Ewing will be introduced as the next head women’s basketball coach at TVCC at 10 a.m. Monday at the Student Union Building ballroom. The public is invited to attend the ceremony.
    Ewing has been with TVCC for the past two seasons under former coach Elena Lovato, who is now the assistant coach at Mississippi State University.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo