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.
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.
According to the memorandum of understanding, the US would like Israel's use of the raw data to be "consistent with the requirements placed upon NSA by U.S. law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of U.S. persons under the Fourth Amendment," but it also specifies: "This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law."
Short version: We'll give you all of our domestic surveillance, unredacted, and while it'd be nice if you used it in a way that is consistent with our constitution, you can really do whatever you want.
Meaning: Israel is allowed to do things with the data that the US technically can't. But what's to stop Israel from sharing what it finds out in its Bill of Rights-free zone?
That sounds like the surveillance-state version of stashing your ill-gotten gains in the Cayman Islands so you can enjoy it without any legal obligations.
And I must say, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and the rest of the gang are handling this expertly, doling out small, curated amounts of information in digestible portions instead of a massive, Wikileaks-style data dump. Wikileaks was a treasure trove for journalists and experts but I get the feeling it left most citizens too overwhelmed to draw any specific conclusions from all that information.
I wonder what the coming days will bring.
Thanks to Joe for quickly pointing us to this article.