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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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national lead

August 21st, 2013
09:51 PM ET

NSA violating surveillance laws

The nation’s top intelligence official is making public three secret court opinions outlining how the National Security Agency collected tens of thousands of emails from Americans with no connection to terrorism.

It all comes amid the deluge of accusations that the government has been unlawfully breaching the public’s privacy in the name of national security.

In October 2011 James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, proactively came to the court and explained how the NSA had collected citizens’ content and metadata. The NSA agreed to find new ways to remove domestic data and internet traffic from its collections. That promise was made three years ago and the NSA failed to keep it.

Today, the FISA Court judge accused the NSA of misrepresenting what it’s been doing for three years.

“The judge was essentially catalouguing all the things the NSA was doing,” said CNN’s Justice Reporter Evan Perez.

“In essence the NSA had been telling the court it had been doing a certain amount of this but it was taking care to make sure all of the domestic data was left out, and it wasn’t doing that,” Perez explained.

The FISA Court’s action against the NSA proved both that it isn’t just a rubber stamp, and that it is limited in what it can accomplish.

“The court has really no leeway," said Perez. "They can order the government to follow the law but if the government doesn’t follow the law there’s really nothing the court can do.”