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Section 702 Compliance Violations: Methodology

These timelines were developed by reviewing all of the publicly released materials on Section 702, including declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, quarterly reports and semi-annual assessments, government reports to Congress and to the FISC, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s report on Section 702. Because significant portions of these materials are redacted, including information about the number of violations and their duration and impact, and not all relevant materials have been released in declassified form, this document cannot represent a comprehensive accounting of all compliance violations.

Instead, this document provides a summary only of the violations about which details have been made public. Many of these details are represented in statistical form, such as the percent a particular category of violations accounted for out of all violations in a reporting period. For example, while the total number of violations in semi-annual assessments is redacted in all but one available report, those reports do publicly disclose that X% of all NSA compliance violations may have resulted from tasking violations, while another Y% resulted from detasking violations, and so on. In order to ensure that every violation represented on this timeline is fully contextualized, these percentages and the percentage increase or decrease in violations as compared to the previous reporting period are repeated in every entry derived from the same semi-annual assessment. Some entries cite more than one document that refer to the same compliance violation, such as where an incident is described in both a FISC opinion and also in a Semiannual report to Congress. In some instances, however, it may be the case that the same incident is being described in multiple entries, but it was not readily apparent from the unclassified documents that these were the same incident.

Special thanks to Mia Little, who contributed significantly to this research.