The National Security Agency broke privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 when Congress granted the NSA broad new powers, The Washington Post reports.
Most of the violations involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the U.S. The Post says the information comes from an internal audit and other top-secret documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
The violations range from significant violations of law to typographical errors, but no matter what the type of breach, the damage has been done, according to CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate. "The fact is this is more than just a few inadvertent episodes," he said. "It's really a sense from the internal audits, inside the government, of the violations and overstepping by the NSA. I think people are going to see this different ways depending on their perception and trust of the NSA, (but) certainly this is going to add fuel to the fire."
Human error is one of the issues, according to Zarate, who pointed to technological challenges associated with an inability to determine when certain types of cell phones enter the U.S. in order to stop collecting information.
He added, "This is a challenge for the NSA because there are technological issues at play and a Byzantine legal of structure to adhere to, and so that explains the number of violations, I think. But I think the devil is going to be in the details here as when we dig into the actual violations."
In a statement, the NSA has said, "We're a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line."
The audit wasn't shared with top members of Congress, Norah O'Donnell pointed out, even though public has been assured that proper oversight is in place.
Oversight, Zarate said, is going to be the big issue going forward in this NSA debate. He said, "The NSA will say, and has said, that these audits are a part of that oversight, that they're obviously going to make mistakes, that the technology changes. They've got human error, but (that's) absolutely right -- this is going to raise serious concerns about, not just what's in this report, but perhaps what's not being reported, and this is going to add fuel to the fire for the administration in terms of putting in place new oversight mechanisms."