NSA Data On U.S. Citizens Soon To Be Shared With Law Enforcement For Domestic Policing

It looks as though the National Security Agency (NSA) crown jewels are about to be fondled by the rest of America’s intelligence agencies. The NSA monitors and collects various types of communications including emails, phone calls, and even transmissions conducted by our foreign allies (and foes). As we learned from the the Edward Snowden leaks, this information is stored in bulk and is one of the reasons for the ever-increasing use of encryption in our smartphones (see Apple vs FBI).

Historically, the data collected has mainly been kept within the halls of the NSA and only offered to other intelligence agencies — i.e. the CIA and the FBI — after being scrubbed of “irrelevant” identifiable personal information. But now, according to sources familiar with the matter, the Obama administration will allow the NSA will share any and all information, unfiltered, with other intelligence agencies.

What’s interesting about this new shift in privacy regulations is that an intelligence agency, such as the FBI, would place its own filters on personal data after they’ve siphoned all the information they want. After which, the data could be passed down to information-hungry state and local law enforcement agencies, which has riled the feathers of privacy advocates including the ACLU.

nsa hq
NSA Headquarters

“FBI agents won’t need to have any ‘national security’ related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other ‘selector’ into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove,” writes the ACLU of Massachusetts in a blog posting. “They could simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they could send that information to local or state police.

“That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called ‘national security’ will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes.”

For its part, Brian Hale, the spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that the new rules have been designed “to ensure that they protect privacy, civil liberties and constitutional rights while enabling the sharing of information that is important to protect national security. Once these procedures are final and approved, they will be made public to the extent consistent with national security.”

But Hale further cautions that “it would be premature to draw conclusions about what the procedures will provide or authorize until they are finalized.”

It should be noted the the Obama administration has virtually untapped powers to make such changes as the NSA’s domestic data collection efforts can largely bypass Congress and judicial oversight since it does not fall under the scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).