US NSA Gives Israel Raw Intelligence on US Citizens (Chamberlain)

Jacob Chamberlain writes at

The National Security Agency openly shares unfiltered intelligence files with the Israeli government, according to a classified document leaked to the Guardian newspaper by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

As the Guardian reports Wednesday, the NSA memorandum details an "intelligence-sharing agreement" between the two countries and shows that the "US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens" to Israeli intelligence.

According to the Guardian, the agreement places "no legally binding limits" on how Israel could explore or handle the data.

"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," writes Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewan MacAskill, the team of journalists behind the report. "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 Guardian published the NSA memorandum in full here.

According to the document, raw files shared with Israel come from the NSA's collection of "signals intelligence" or Sigint—which includes both electronic and telephonic metadata swept up in any number of NSA surveillance programs.

That data, according to the Guardian, includes, but is not limited to, "unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content." Much of this unfiltered data, the Guardian suggests, contains detailed information belonging to unsuspecting U.S. citizens whose communications have been caught up in the NSA's extensive surveillance dragnet.

The reporting continues:

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.

"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," the document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

Responding to the new revelations on Twitter, the ACLU's deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer thought these three questions should be among the first to be asked:

And commenting dryly on the fact Israel has seemingly been given more access to NSA surveillance data than even questioning members of Congress or the American people, Jaffer added:

When questioned by the Guardian, the Obama administration refused to discuss how many other countries the NSA shares raw data with or whether the FISA court, designed to act as a check on NSA overreach, approved the agreement.


Mirrored from Commondreams

7 Responses

  1. This has been on LA Times. I wonder if WaPo and NYT will let their readers know. The comments will be furibund! What else has to happen? Is Snowden the only patriot in the home of the brave? He sure still has some damaging info to drop. At Slate, there is an amazing piece proposing his remaining info should be destroyed, as it will do more harm than good -sure, but… who is to decide? The guys whose actions harm the global public?

  2. Today’s New York Times, Internet edition, has nothing on this story…Can somebody explain why?

  3. link to
    WaPo hides this in the Technology Section. Professor Cole, your blog has just qualified as a Technology blog! I think I should not comment this post, as I am not an IT graduate! Good Luck to everyone, it looks like we are going to need it.

  4. Assuming Jaffer’s three questions have no positive response (The NSA has no legal authority to monitor the phone calls of US judges and legislators; the NSA has no legal authority to share American’s info with Israel; the FISC did not sign off on this), so what? Yes, there will be lawsuits; there will be laws passed by outraged legislators. Greater oversight will be promised; the NSA will publicly and repeatedly repent of its sins. Why would anybody in their right mind not conclude that these practices will simply be driven deeper underground? Why would anyone conclude that they will actually stop? And how would you know if they did or not? Is there anything that can be done to restore trust short of a Constitutional convention that radically rewrites the rules of the game?

    • No, G.O.M. it will not happen. But Manning is jailed for a lot less and Snowden is wanted for being a brave patriot.

  5. If we remember the Jonathan Pollard case, the part that really ofended American interests is that Israel not only obstructed the U.S. from investigating the matter in Israel, but that Israel could not (or would not) disgorge the tremendous volume of intelligence documents that were transmitted by Polard to his contacts in the Israeli government. This series of events implies that Israel may have re-distributed that data to other would powers – some who may have interests that are hostile to America e.g. North Korea.

    In other words there is absolutely no telling what happens to this vast volume of raw intelligence data once the NSA transmits it to Israel – this data has the potential to be immensely valuable in the hands of the enemies of the U.S. if Israel is willing to sell it.

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