The facts are obvious -- the NSA DOES NOT HAVE an auditing system for database and file access on its servers. If they did, they would know exactly what docs Snowden took, exactly who is querying the data without authorization, etc., etc.
These "LOVEINT" things likely happen all the time as the only cases they have discovered are the ones that were self-reported, usually as the result of a secrecy re-authorization (which uses polygraph machines!). In fact, its safe to say that analysts, if they are of a mind to, routinely look through the traffic of anyone they have an interest in, for whatever reason. Given the sheer number of people who have access to the data its probably an underestimation to say it happens a hundred times per day.
The shocking reality that their systems aren't auditable in terms of authorized versus unauthorized queries is just more evidence that everything they are telling us about the "security" of the data they collect is total garbage. There are ways to make such data more secure, they clearly and simply don't care to. Its hard, takes a lot of hours to build and maintain such systems and when your mantra is "collect it all" its clear where the money and effort is going, and it ain't going to keeping our data secure.
From working in IT departments for over a decade I fucking KNEW these guys were lying through their teeth. Well, maybe I didn't know it, but I suspected it strongly once it became clear they couldn't figure out what docs Snowden had viewed/taken.
The NSA systems should log and compare every query to a database of approved queries and immediately ding a supervisor when one doesn't match. There should be auditable, login based records of every document retrieved, printed and/or downloaded into a separate storage device. The only way to copy these docs without getting flagged should be to photograph the damned screen (and that should be very difficult because there should be rules about what analysts, etc. can bring to their desks.
But when you have thousands of analysts, sysadmins, tech support, software engineers, database engineers, government and non governmental employees at tens or hundreds of locations all using, configuring and querying massive datasets on a daily basis, the logistics of that would be incredibly difficult if not impossible. So of course, what does any self-respecting tech organization do, they say fuck it and open everything up. I've never worked anywhere that wasn't the case. THAT is the state of IT in the early 21st century.
And lets not even get into what data is used in their test databases - you know, the ones database engineers and software programmers use to test and refine new queries and software interfaces and database structures. One can't run such systems against a small set of fake data or they aren't being properly tested. A new query can bring down an entire database if written poorly or designed to grab too much data. These things MUST be tested on data that matches the topography of the data they will be run against in a production environment.
The mistake we keep making (not just with this NSA crap) is utterly over-estimating the technique, sophistication and skill behind IT systems. They are not magical. They are human made systems and they fail all the time, even when kept simple. And if anything these NSA systems are leviathans of complexity and size. Even if they gave a crap about auditability and data security, which they obviously do not, there would still be ten thousand ways to circumvent any protections. A system like this is begging, screaming to be abused. And it is being abused. Constantly and thoroughly.
These fucking spooks are lying through their fucking sharpened teeth (no insult to the Ferengi).