A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode. F.B.I. officials blamed an “apparent miscommunication” with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host.
Just when the White House is battling Congress for fewer limitations and more exemptions in surveillance, it appears that the FBI has had far greater access to our domestic communications than we've been told. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, a reporter who, with James Risen, has been watching the Bush administration's (mis)use of surveillance for several years, finds that the FBI's methods have put more of us in jeopardy.
This is getting to be a bad habit on the part of the administration and the agencies it deploys to "protect" the American people. Whether it really is "miscommunication" or deliberate intrusion, we can't know.
In the warrantless wiretapping program approved by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, technical errors led officials at the National Security Agency on some occasions to monitor communications entirely within the United States — in apparent violation of the program’s protocols — because communications problems made it difficult to tell initially whether the targets were in the country or not.
Past violations by the government have also included continuing a wiretap for days or weeks beyond what was authorized by a court, or seeking records beyond what were authorized. The 2006 case appears to be a particularly egregious example of what intelligence officials refer to as “overproduction” — in which a telecommunications provider gives the government more data than it was ordered to provide.
The episode was disclosed as part of a new batch of internal documents that the F.B.I. turned over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group in San Francisco that advocates for greater digital privacy protections, as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the group has brought. The group provided the documents on the 2006 episode to The New York Times.