To add injury to insult in our nation, the National Security Agency was exposed by the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald on September 11, 2013 for sharing raw intelligence with Israel that included Americans’ personal data which was collected illegally.
Documents, once again provided by the gift that keeps on giving Edward Snowden, were posted to the Guardians’ website.
According to Greenwald:
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.
The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.
Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.
Additionally, Israel isn’t bound by anything in how they might use the raw intelligence data they were given.
Andrea Peterson points out “What’s also noteworthy is that the memo allows Israeli intelligence to retain data they identify as belonging to Americans for up to a year. The United States merely requests that they consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser at the time they discover such data. But ‘any data that is either to or from an official of the US government’ is supposed to be destroyed as soon as it is recognized.”
Greenwald, after discovering that France targeted the United States Department of Defense through technical intelligence collection, just as Israel does, decided to contact the Obama administration to question them further (one should know Greenwald was not going to get an answer).
Greenwald concludes his article writing, “The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.”
In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.
“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.”
Apparently they can and have. When is Congress going to put them in check and cut the head off of this beast and bring it into compliance with the Constitution? My friends, if they haven’t done it by now, don’t expect them to. It is up to us, the people, to install new leadership in government, men of character, principle and conviction. May God grant us such.
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