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NSA gathered as many as 56,000 emails from Americans with no terror ties

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Security Agency declassified three secret U.S. court opinions Wednesday showing how it scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism annually over three years, 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.

The opinions show that when the NSA reported that to the court in 2011, the court ordered the NSA to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it.

The NSA reported the problems it discovered in how it was gathering Internet communications to the court and shortly thereafter to Congress in the fall of 2011.

Three senior U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday that the NSA realized that when it was gathering up bundled Internet communications from fiber optic cables, with the cooperation of telecommunications providers like AT&T, that it was often collecting thousands of emails or other Internet transactions by Americans who had no connection to the intended terror target being tracked.

The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe the program publicly.

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