The US National Security Agency routinely passes raw intelligence to Israel without first removing details about US citizens, Britain's Guardian newspaper said on Thursday, citing documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Under a memorandum agreed in principle in March 2009, the NSA shares information with Israel that could include details of intercepted phone calls and emails from US citizens with no legally binding restraint on the use of the data by the Israelis, the paper reported. It said providing raw data to a foreign country contrasted with assurances given by US President Barack Obama that the privacy of ordinary citizens would be protected. The five-page memorandum stressed that the rights of Americans to privacy should be respected, but still allowed Israel to receive raw "Sigint", signal intelligence, which had not gone through a "minimisation" process to safeguard privacy. "Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimised transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content," the memorandum says, according to the Guardian.
The agreement, which allows Israel to retain the data containing the identities of US citizens for up to a year, stated such material would not be filtered in advance by the NSA, the Guardian said. While the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified, there was no legal means to enforce this. In a statement in response to the article, the NSA did not deny personal details of US citizens was included in data passed on to Israel but said the practice complied with rules governing privacy, the Guardian said. "Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US personal information," the NSA statement said.
The memorandum is the latest in a series of disclosures by Snowden into NSA intelligence-gathering and surveillance-sharing methods which have angered Washington but also led to criticism of its security activities. Previous documents released by Snowden indicated the email and phone data of Americans is being routinely monitored on a vast scale, with the cooperation of major US technology firms. Snowden, sought by US authorities for leaking classified information, is currently living in Russia.