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Typing errors led FBI/NSA to spy on wrong people

Typing Errors Led FBI To Spy On Wrong Targets: Report

The FBI might be spying on you –– but before you start fighting back with methods your ninth grade copy of "1984" taught you, take a look at the embarrassing reason why the agency might have tapped your phone: National Journal reports typos have led to unintended American targets coming under the agency's watch.

The Justice Department's inspector general reportedly " ... found that the FBI's corrective measures have not completely eliminated potential intelligence violations resulting from typographical errors in the identification of a telephone number, email address, or social security number."

Although typos are not a malicious or deceitful source of wrongful spying, the issue is bringing the practice of National Security Letters back into the spotlight.

The use of National Security Letters, or NSLs, has been controversial since the Patriot Act loosened standards regarding the practice following 9/11.

A NSL is similar to a subpoena but does not require a judge's approval. They are designed to help agencies, like the FBI, demand customer information from companies such as banks, telephone corporations and internet providers. These requests cannot be for actual content of emails or phone calls, but phone and email records, checking and savings accounts standings and credit reports are fair game.

Companies are not allowed to tell anyone about an agency's request for an NSL, so there is arguably no oversight of the practice.

Yet the Electronic Frontier Foundation says more than 300,000 NSLs have been issued since the Patriot Act.

Which has to make one wonder, with human error alone, how many of those National Security Letters were accidentally used to spy on non-targets?

The report did say the FBI has fully implemented 23 of the 28 recommendations by a previous inspector general report. Better record keeping and training were advised in the most recent report to improve upon the five remaining recommendations –– which the issue of typos fell within.

Although there is no way to know if you're the subject of an NSL, some are fighting back against what they see as agencies infringing on their right to privacy.

A Washington Post article published last year reported five methods of avoiding agency spying. Among them were browsing under the program Tor, which allows you to keep your IP address secret, and making phone calls with Silent Circle –– a program that is reportedly impervious to wiretapping.

Join the discussion

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Tom August 15 2014 at 5:54 PM

I have so much faith in our federal govt.. The IRS gives millions to prisoners filing false reports. And the FBI spies on us for no reason. And we have a racist head of the Justice Dept.
But the kicker is that we have a President that has an invisible past and very little work history.
What could go wrong with Obamacare? And where is this country heading?

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8 replies
crypt585 August 15 2014 at 6:41 PM

Every department of this administration is filled with incompetence.

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2 replies
Frank crypt585 August 16 2014 at 8:41 AM

"this administratiom"? Really? Do you really think this started with this administration? Are you nieve. Just how old are you?

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1 reply
kimmer0310 Frank August 16 2014 at 9:46 AM

It's been documented more so with THIS administration. So much for transparency and lies.

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cqdeed crypt585 August 16 2014 at 10:54 AM

This administration? There is no total personnel turnover with the change of administrations. The folks in civil service work in their government department until they retire. They are extremely hard to fire and they could be there thirty or forty years competent or not. They are the ones who come up with regulations. We are supposed to be a country of laws but we are actually a country of regulations since there are hundreds, if not thousands, of regulations for every law.

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rivera8787 August 15 2014 at 4:13 PM

Yeah its real hard to mix up spelling "dirt bag islamic terrorists" and "hard working americans".....

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1 reply
cqdeed rivera8787 August 16 2014 at 10:57 AM

Not for the functionally illiterate our schools graduate. these days.

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lewmanbubba August 15 2014 at 6:50 PM

OK please remember this is the FBI and the NSA lying to you folks

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Tom August 15 2014 at 7:05 PM

Sure, just a typo...Nothing to see here people. Just keep facing forward and, march to that oven over there.

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2 replies
tony Tom August 16 2014 at 12:53 AM

Is it pizza time there tommy?

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1 reply
mark and sheri tony August 16 2014 at 1:13 AM

Bet you own one of those "special" lamps Himmler helped make.

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cqdeed Tom August 16 2014 at 11:00 AM

Sorry Tony, you can only get your pizza after your shower.

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kitharris1 August 15 2014 at 4:24 PM

great article, tells terrorists how to stay under the radar. thanks aol, aren't you just so special!

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SRJimVal2 August 15 2014 at 11:03 PM

Typo errors should be avoided. Please pay attention to detail. People's lives depend on little mistakes like this. Geesh! Pay attention

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1 reply
Jive Turkey SRJimVal2 August 15 2014 at 11:05 PM

don't worry about it

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wizardsking August 15 2014 at 5:01 PM

Thats OK by me. Sometimes you have to look at the good guys to get to the bad ones. It keeps our country safe, and can seem like an intrusion, but to be quite clear, the FBI and NSA already have files on every american.

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8 replies
Jive Turkey August 15 2014 at 11:03 PM

I also spy on the wrong people accidentally, so I'm sure it doesn't count.Never mind, delete this comment forget what you read. My particular assignment is consider G-14 classified.

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2 replies
tony Jive Turkey August 16 2014 at 12:50 AM

If thou had even half a brain, thou would have not posted it in the 1st place. Happy thanksgiving there turkey.

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Jive Turkey Jive Turkey August 16 2014 at 1:29 AM

Perhaps thou should google the term G-14 classified and see which movie it came from. Hard to take anyone serious once you've seen the clip. : )

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coopdabomb August 16 2014 at 7:19 AM

Never, ever has any administration had so many problems. obama has to go

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