NSA can access collected data without a warrant

Leaked documents: FISA court rulings allow the agency to make use of "inadvertently" collected data

Topics: NSA, FISA, Surveillance, Prism, The Guardian, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, , ,

In its latest revelation about National Security Agency surveillance based on documents leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the Guardian reported Thursday that the NSA not only hoards vast swaths of communications information, but is also able to use that personal data without a warrant.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges “have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information ‘inadvertently’ collected from domestic US communications without a warrant,” Glenn Greenwald and James Ball reported, publishing two leaked documents, which detail the procedures the intelligence agency must follow to target individuals.

Via the Guardian:



[The] two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009… detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.

The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used…

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.

However, alongside those provisions, the Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:

• 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.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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