A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for repeatedly misleading the court that oversees its surveillance on domestic soil, including a program that is collecting tens of thousands of domestic e-mails and other Internet communications of Americans each year, according to a secret ruling made public on Wednesday.
The 85-page ruling by Judge John D. Bates, then serving as chief judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, involved an N.S.A. program that systematically searches the contents of Americans’ international Internet communications, without a warrant, in a hunt for discussions about foreigners who have been targeted for surveillance.
The Justice Department had told Judge Bates that N.S.A. officials had discovered that the program had also been gathering domestic messages for three years. Judge Bates found that the agency had violated the Constitution and declared the problems part of a pattern of misrepresentation by agency officials in submissions to the secret court.
“This opinion illustrates that the way the court is structured now it cannot serve as an effective check on the N.S.A. because it’s wholly dependent on the representations that the N.S.A. makes to it,” Mr. Rumold said. “It has no ability to investigate. And it’s clear that the N.S.A. representations have not been entirely candid to the court.”