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Secret documents reveal rules allowing NSA warrantless use of US data


New documents have been leaked shining further light on the top-secret surveillance programs operated by the NSA. According to The Guardian, the National Security Agency can retain and use information obtained through domestic communications.

According to two documents published in full by the newspaper on  Thursday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has  approved a handful of policies that allow the National Security  Agency to make use of intelligence on United States persons.

President Barack Obama and his administration’s top intelligence  chiefs have previously denied the NSA targets American citizens  in the wake of classified documents leaked earlier this month.

The two new documents — including one-marked “top-secret” — were  both authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder on July 29, 2009,  and were leaked two weeks-to-the-day since The Guardian first  began publishing NSA papers attributed to former intelligence  contractor Edward Snowden. Earlier this month, the American Civil  Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Holder and other Obama  administration officials for a number of constitutional rights  they alleged to have been violated under the surveillance  practices previously disclosed by the newspaper.

The new documents, The Guardian reports, details how 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.

These powers vested in the NSA come notwithstanding other  provisions included in the documents that discuss safeguards that  are meant to be employed in order to avoid targeting US persons.

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 for The Guardian.

The reporters go on to quote from a FISA document they claim to  have seen that shows that the secretive intelligence court can  compel companies to give the government private data pertaining  to US citizens without offering any explanation.

Instead, they write, a FISA judge “declares that the  procedures submitted by the attorney general on behalf of the NSA  are consistent with US law and the Fourth Amendment.”

Under the FISA Act, the government can warrantlessly eavesdrop on  phone and Internet conversations if one of the parties involved  is reasonably sought to be outside of the United States. And  while the Obama administration insists that surveillance programs  authorized by FISA do not target US persons, the latest leak  shows that the government can still collect, retain and analyze  seized intelligence of Americans even when it’s clear that they  are within the country.

In the absence of specific information regarding whether a  target is a United States person,” it states “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.”

If it later appears that a target is in fact located in the  US,” The Guardian reports, “analysts are permitted to look  at the content of messages, or listen to phone calls, to  establish if this is indeed the case.”

On Wednesday this week, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake told RT  that the FISA authorization process operates essentially as “a  rubber stamp court,” and said, “The oversight is simply an  artificial mechanism to give the appearance of oversight.”

They’ve basically unhinged themselves from the Fourth  Amendment of the Constitution,” Drake said


original story here

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