The NSA Shares Intelligence on U.S. Persons with Its Israeli Counterpart

The National Security Agency regularly shares intelligence with its Israeli counterpart that could contain data on American citizens, according to a new report based on information disclosed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

An undated memorandum of understanding between the NSA and an Israeli intelligence agency, provided to the Guardian by Snowden, reveals that the NSA provides its counterpart with intelligence data that has not specifically been filtered by analysts to remove communications by American citizens.

There are some protections for Americans’ data: The memorandum says that the intelligence must be dealt with according to U.S. law and frequently emphasizes American citizens’ constitutional protections. The Israeli agency also not to target Americans using the data. But the memorandum doesn’t place the Israelis under any legal obligation to follow its promises, emphasizing that it doesn’t constitute a legally binding international agreement. (It does also promise that the NSA will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities.”)

The memorandum, which indicates that the agreement was reached in March 2009, says Israeli intelligence may keep “any files containing the identity of US persons” (American citizens or permanent residents) for up to a year, but must consult the NSA’s special liaison whenever it identifies such data. The Israelis may “disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw [signals intelligence] by NSA” so long as they do so in a manner that doesn’t identify the persons in question.

Communications to and from the U.S. government – including officials from the executive branch, Congress, and the federal court system – are off-limits. Such communications are to be destroyed “upon recognition” of their nature, the memorandum says.

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