A new round of leaked National Security Agency documents acquired by The Guardian shine light on policies approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which allow the National Security Agency to retain and use information collected domestically in its communications surveillance.
The newspaper published the two documents which refute claims made by the Obama Administration that the surveillance efforts have no impact on U.S. citizens at home who are not involved in terror activities, noting that the NSA can:
• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;
• Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;
• Preserve “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications;
• Access the content of communications gathered from “U.S. based machine[s]” or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.
The revelations show that the NSA’s discretion in picking surveillance targets is capricious and in-house—determinations are made by NSA analysts, without court oversight.
“The top-secret documents published today detail the circumstances in which data collected on US persons under the foreign intelligence authority must be destroyed, extensive steps analysts must take to try to check targets are outside the US and reveals how US call records are used to help remove US citizens and residents from data collection,” Glenn Greenwald and James Ball write in The Guardian.
With blessing from the FISA act, the government can eavesdrop on phone and Internet conversations if one of the parties involved is reasonably believed to be outside of the United States.
But, there’s a loophole: “In the absence of specific information regarding whether a target is a United States person,” states the FISA document “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person.”
Even if the analyst deems the person to be in the United States, according to The Guardian, “analysts are permitted to look at the content of messages, or listen to phone calls, to establish if this is indeed the case.”
Source: The Guardian