WASHINGTON - The nation's top intelligence official is declassifying three secret U.S. court opinions showing how the National Security Agency scooped up tens of thousands of emails annually over three years and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism, how it revealed the error to the court and changed how it gathered Internet communications.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized the release Wednesday and the agency is expected to post the documents shortly.
"He's determined that in the current circumstances the harm to national security from release of this information is out weighed by the public interest," said a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters ahead of the release.
The official said the documents reveal "effective self-policing" at the National Security Agency.
"Anytime you have a large and a technologically complex operation that involves thousands of people, there will be mistakes and there will be errors," the official said prior to the public release of the documents.
The opinions show that when the NSA reported to the court in 2011 that it was inadvertently collecting as many as 56,000 Internet communications by Americans with no collection to terrorism, the court ordered the NSA to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it, according to the Associated Press.
Contributing: Associated Press
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