Oops: Typo made NSA intercepts mistakenly target Washington, not Egypt

An internal audit reveals that the NSA overstepped its legal authority thousands of times a year since 2008, the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman is reporting tonight. Among the most embarrassing revelations: the agency mixed up Washington, D.C.’s area code (202) with Egypt’s country code (20), unintentionally intercepting a “large number” of calls placed by U.S. citizens in the nation’s capital.

That was just a simple mistake, though, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is on it.

Obama’s on vacation. Maybe the White House could send out David Frum to explain.

  • NRPax

    Mr. Frum, if George Bush was still in office would you view this as a “Management Error”? Just figured I’d ask.

    • ObamaFail

      He’d label it the way all liberals would have labeled it. A direct assault on the civil liberties of US citizens. But since it’s Obama, they want to beat around the bush and defend him.

      • Clete Torres

        You mean “beat up Bush” don’t you?

        • ObamaFail

          I meant the proverbial bush, but yeah, they’d want to beat up Bush for it as well.

          • Clete Torres

            I know, I was just going for the easy tip-in.

      • screamingmad

        Hahaha….Beat around the Bush…..they do plenty of that don’t they.

    • http://redstate.com/ midwestconservative

      Frum worked for Bush so probably yeah.

  • http://BanthaSkull.com/ Duke

    And yet, if I made 2,700 errors on my taxes this year I’d be prosecuted or at the very least, investigated and called a cheat. How far we have fallen all in the name of keeping the power they lie to get.

  • Catchance

    Shorter David Frum: A real police state would listen in on everyone!

  • Maury

    Only 2776 Instances. Right.

  • ReubenHood

    So the NSA accidently spied on Obama’s political enemies and allies? Convenient.

  • ObamaFail

    This was not a typo. They couldn’t keep it hush-hush, so they are spinning this for damage control. If the internal audit hadn’t had uncovered this, we never would have heard about it. But the news came out, they can’t call it a “phony scandal,” so they decide to claim a “typo” caused the “mix-up”.

  • Clete Torres

    Who’d have thought that dumbing-down the American school system could have such hilarious consequences? 20, 202, what’s an extra digit among friends?
    /yes, sarc.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      In all seriousness, this is not how databases work. A zip code in the USA should not have been an acceptable entry. As if they use google to look up data fields for NSA database entries. A typo might be acceptable (well, not really…more plausible though) if it were between two foreign nations.

      I’m more careful about designing databases to track my personal DVDs. What they are saying is bullshoot. They are lying.

      • screamingmad

        You think?

      • Clete Torres

        Oh I’m quite sure they are. Anytime a politician’s lips move, there’s a 90% chance they’re lying.

      • Rob

        That “20” international number doesn’t even GO where “202” the area code goes.
        +20 ### ### ####
        is quite different from +## 202 ### ####

        • Governor Squid

          Now, why would the NSA “accidentally” intercept phone messages in Washington DC in an election year?

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Another thing that people are not generally aware of is that government computers by law must have certain features that allow audit trails. At some point, the IG should technically be able to find out with relative precision what was going on here. At least in terms of what keys were punched at what time and whose account was used to authorize it.

            It would take considerable intentional hacking to remove the evidence. Normal editing only changes the results of reports. They should not be able to “obliterate” any source data from any event.

            The smoking gun(s) exist.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          They are probably in different fields. I doubt they would enter the entire unified string in a single field. So the “typo” would probably require entry in to the wrong field, where it would not be valid if the database was designed by a professional.

          If not, your point is also valid. Either way, they’re lying.

  • trixiewoobeans

    I’d like to be able to make a joke about this and their incompetence, but it’s just not funny.

  • kate_middleton

    NSA, please feel free to spy on David Frum. He is a-okay with it.

    Not that you’d find anything interesting, I imagine.

    • TocksNedlog

      Interesting? Maybe. Suitable for family viewing?
      Probably not.

  • GaryTheBrave

    Hello, IT Department? You put in a subroutine that prevented us from capturing domestic calls. You can remove it. We’re really careful up here. Thanks. Buh-bye.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      But they do this on handwritten notepads. We have to accept this kind of error if we don’t want the expense of those computer thingies.

      • GaryTheBrave

        There’s the problem. They were using cursive. If they had used English numerals instead of Arabic numerals there wouldn’t be a problem. /sarc

      • GaryTheBrave

        There’s the problem. They were using cursive. If they had used English numerals instead of Arabic numerals there wouldn’t be a problem. /sarc

  • Republicanvet

    Uh…riiight. Was this intercept right before Congress debated NSA’s funding? What made them figure out their screw-up? Dingy Harry’s lack of Egyptian accent?

  • Maxx
    • WhoMeToo


      • mickeyco


      • mickeyco


  • The Masked Avatar

    If this was the 23rd century we would be speaking Klingon right now. God, I’m a nerd!

  • The Penguin

    Yet another mulligan taken by the worst administration EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TocksNedlog

    Frum IS right about one thing . . . committing only 7 or 8 violations of law per day has the NSA lagging waaaaay behind most of the other departments within the Executive Branch.

  • TocksNedlog

    Twitchy: ‘Among the most embarrassing revelations: the agency mixed up Washington, D.C.’s area code (202) with Egypt’s country code (20), unintentionally intercepting a “large number” of calls placed by U.S. citizens in the nation’s capital.’

    — Rodeo clowns.

  • arttie

    They are incompetently incompetent then.

  • TJCrane_NCC1701


    Nancy Pelosi wants her broomstick back MR PRESIDENT !

    Reggie Love says he’ll “play cards” with you…..


  • Steve_J

    MIstakenly? Diffcult to believe when Obama feels he has more enemies in Washington than he does in Egypt..

  • Axelgreaser

    NSA, WHICH WHEN COMPLETED WILL BE VISIBLE FROM OUTER SPACE in size and incompetence and will prove out to be one of the most masochistic organizations the citizenry of a sound asleep nation every allowed to spring up between its toes like some fungal growth picked up in a gymnasium locker room. It’s said it will eventually absorb the entire state of Utah. What in the name of God have we allowed?

  • http://www.conservativefiction.com/blog/author-pages/ Jamie Wilson

    Mr. Frum: what about the other 90% that were NOT “management errors”? How do you explain those?

    Out of 2700, 90% would be over 2400. Would you care to explain why these “rule-breaking incidents” happened?

  • vcferlita


  • Rob

    “We accidentally recorded the data of every phone call in the area we were also trying to find whistleblowers talking to dissenting reporters. Honestly!”


    Jimmy Carter is doing a jig, he’s finally guaranteed not to be the worst president of all time

  • mickeyco

    Those in D.C. like Frum, don’t know who does what in any situation. First 5 little people at the IRS in Cincinnati are blamed for giving orders that they didn’t have the power to do. Then Frum tells us a manager made a typo. What manager do you know who types?

  • Jeremy

    David Frum has zero credibility anyway.He blew all of his credibility on his crazy gun control freak outs.

  • Sharkteeth

    The giant needs to awaken people!!! It’s now or never. Let your reps know. If you don’t know how to call or email them . LEARN HOW for future reference….http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/a_three_sections_with_teasers/votes.htm

  • whatnow

    Ah ha. So this is why all the RINO’s fall in line.

  • whatnow

    Ah ha. So this is why all the RINO’s fall in line.

  • Dane Gunderson

    Sure… the #NSA mixed up ’20’ and ‘202’, forgot the international dialing code and missed the different number of digits AND coincidentally the Congressman had the exact same 7 digit numbers as Al Qaeda operatives… NOT.

  • Dane Gunderson

    I’m sure this was an isolated incident in Cincinnati… or a youtuber… or some other Phony Scandal

  • right_on

    Is it just coincidence that phone calls, and electronic signals were intercepted in Washington, D.C.? I wonder if one was to get a list of numbers, which percentage of them would come back identifying a Republican, or other political foe of Obama? Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be on the up and up…just like the Dept. of Justice is on the up and up.
    Nope…nothing to see either place. Move along (or else.)

  • right_on

    These “management errors” of which Frum speaks, may have been believable, had the NSA followed the law, and reported them to the FISA court, as REQUIRED, which they did not.
    Pooh-poohing the revelation, and excusing it, AFTER it was leaked by a “traitor,” makes the whole thing stink like another cover up, which is the M.O. of the Obama political machine.

  • Jeff H

    Conversation that apparently never took place at NSA:

    Spy #1: “Say, come hear. Do these guys sound like they’re from DC to you?”