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Sep 12 2013

Latest Snowden revelation: NSA shares raw intelligence with Israel

The latest revelation from the Edward Snowden documents is that the NSA hands over raw intelligence containing personal data it has collected on Americans to Israel. The top secret memorandum of understanding between the US and Israel has been released that show that the US did not place any legal limits on the use of the data by Israel though even if it had, it hardly seems likely that the Israeli authorities would have felt constrained by them.

As the Guardian reports:

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.

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.

In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel.

It is possible that the US also benefits from this arrangement by using Israel to circumvent the law against the US spying on its own citizens, by giving Israel the capability of doing so and then having them report back to the US, thus allowing them deniability.

3 comments

  1. 1
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Prof, you’ve got a number disagreement in your first sentence: revelations are, or revelation is.

    I’d be very surprised if the NSA were going to that much trouble to spy on USan people (asking the Israelis to do it), if for no other reason than you do the analysis on the greatest amount of data accessible, rather than relying on whatever subset you’re passing to $ALLIED_COUNTRY. They don’t seem to be all that concerned, in the moment they’re deciding whether to go ahead with the latest invasion of your privacy (I’m outside the US), with whether or not it’s legal or moral. And who am I kidding? Is it likely that there’s been any “process” of deciding whether to reach for a bigger violation of citizens’ privacy, or more likely that they said, “Hey, maybe we should consider the Constitut…nah, i can’t say it with a straight face, let’s GET SNOOPING!! Lunch is on me for the kinkiest real-time sent to me before 11am EDT”?

  2. 2
    colnago80

    What the revelation doesn’t tell us is what we got from Israel in exchange, if anything.

  3. 3
    Mano Singham

    Thanks. I’ve corrected it.

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