Eric Lichtblau and James Risen have a long and mostly incoherent report in today's Times on the NSA's extensive "overcollection" of domestic communications under a 2008 law authorizing a lot more domestic surveillance than it should have. In fairness to Lichtblau and Risen, who've done great work on this subject, their report is incoherent because of the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the technical details of the NSA's electronic surveillance. But this part at the end -- which happily made it through the Times' inverted pyramid editing practices -- suggests the magnitude of the problem:
Separate from the new inquiries, the Justice Department has for more than two years been investigating aspects of the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program.
As part of that investigation, a senior F.B.I. agent recently came forward with what the inspector general’s office described as accusations of “significant misconduct” in the surveillance program, people with knowledge of the investigation said. Those accusations are said to involve whether the N.S.A. made Americans targets in eavesdropping operations based on insufficient evidence tying them to terrorism.
And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact — as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 — with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations, the official said.
The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.
Let me get this straight. The NSA thinks that it's currently legal to spy on a US Congressman without a warrant. It stopped doing so in this case only because "some intelligence officials" thought maybe that was a little hinky. Anyone who thinks this will end well is a moron.