NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.40 EDT
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
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 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.
The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.
Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.
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.
Secret Deal Between NSA, Israel Likely Involves Sharing of Data from Americans’ Communications
By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
Wednesday September 11, 2013 12:15 pm
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) or agreement between the NSA and the Israeli-Sigint National Unit (ISNU) “pertaining to the protection of US persons” supposedly was drafted to ensure that the provision of intelligence data, including “raw” intelligence data “not reviewed for foreign intelligence purposes or minimized” was “consistent with the requirements placed upon the NSA by US law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of US persons under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” But, if raw and unreviewed data is being handed over, how could the NSA know whether it is abiding by any requirements?
The agreement indicates that the “NSA has agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom that require it to protect information associated with UK persons, Australian persons, Canadian person and New Zealand persons using procedures and safeguards similar to those applied for US persons.” This suggests the possibility that raw and unreviewed data on the citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom may have wound up in the possession of Israeli intelligence as well.
This is alarming because it appears this makes it possible for Israel to share what a US citizen might be saying about a US government policy or activity or the views of a US official. Such an understanding would clearly enable the targeting of political activists while giving the NSA the cover to claim it did not think it was intercepting such communications because it never reviewed those communications because they were provided to Israel.
The section on US government officials also is alarming. It suggests the NSA intercepts data on US government officials. There is no information on whether the data is collected or stored, but, certainly, if the NSA is establishing parameters of use for such information if found in raw intelligence, that means interception of US government officials’ communication is taking place.
In 2009, it became known that the NSA had obtained FISA court authorization to wiretap Representative Jane Harman. She was caught allegedly exchanging favors with a suspected Israeli agent, but, instead of allowing the FBI to open up an investigation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the opportunity to maintain Harman’s support for the warrantless wiretapping program.
In some way, shape or form, the information being provided to Israel is probably being abused, as Israel uses the intelligence to twist the arms of US government officials to maintain policies toward Israel and the Middle East that it desires.
American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer reacted, “On what authority is NSA monitoring the phone calls of US judges, legislators?” Also, “On what authority is the NSA sharing Americans’ information with Israel?” And, “Did the [FISA Court] sign off on this, and, if so, where’s that opinion?”
Imagine the Informants You Can Coerce When You Can Spy on Every Single American
Wednesday September 11, 2013 9:01 am
Two years ago, I noted a chilling exchange from a 2002 FISA suit argued by Ted Olson. Laurence Silberman was trying to come up with a scenario in which some criminal information might not have any relevance to terrorism. When he suggested rape, Olson suggested we might use evidence of a rape to get someone to inform for us.
In the 7 years since this program (now allegedly scaled back significantly, but still very very broad) has existed, the dragnet has only helped, however indirectly, to capture 12 terrorists in the US (and by terrorist, they also include people sending money to protect their country against US-backed invasion).
Which means the real utility of this program has been about something else.
The ability to track the relationships of every single American. And they were using it to find informants.
Even while the number of terrorists this program discovered has been minimal, the number of FBI informants has ballooned, to 15,000. And those informants are trumping up increasingly ridiculous plots in the name of fighting terrorism.
The ability to track the relationships of every single American (or now, a huge subset of Americans, focusing largely on Muslims and those with international ties). And they were (and presumably still are) using it to find informants.
Update: Note how in Keith Alexander’s description of the alert list, the standard to be on it is “the identifier is likely to produce information of foreign intelligence value” that are “associated with” one of the BR targets (Alexander 33). This is very similar to the language Olson used to justify getting data that didn’t directly relate to terrorism.
We know the NSA has blanket collected every single communication going into and coming out of Washington. Maybe we also now know the reason Institutional Washington, including both government officials and “journalists”, are so eager for a war the United States people do not want.