NSA INTERCEPTS….The NSA is not allowed to spy on U.S. citizens, so when it intercepts conversations involving Americans it removes their names before forwarding transcripts to other agencies. Of the many improprieties John Bolton is accused of, one of them is that he asked the NSA to supply the missing names of American citizens in several transcripts that they supplied to him.

Guess what? Greg Miller of the LA Times reports that this is common practice:

The National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on electronic communications around the world, receives thousands of requests each year from U.S. government officials seeking the names of Americans who show up in intercepted calls or e-mails….

The State Department subsequently revealed that…the department as a whole had submitted about 400 requests during that period.

Those 400 inquiries represented only a “small percentage” of the total number fielded by the NSA, according to a government official with access to NSA data who spoke on condition of anonymity. Since January 2004, the NSA has received more than 3,000 requests, the official said, adding that “the magnitude is surprising” even to some intelligence experts.

Does this get Bolton off the hook? Maybe ? although Bolton still needs to explain why he wanted to see those particular names. What’s more, he has enough additional problems that it might not matter.

On the other hand, the NSA might have a few questions of its own to answer now. Apparently there’s virtually no oversight of this process, and 3,000 requests a year sounds mighty close to “spying on U.S. citizens.” Stay tuned.