More Access, Says The Presidency
Obama administration officials are reported to be close to coming to an agreement on new rules governing information sharing between the NSA and other federal agencies such as the FBI and the CIA. The new guidelines have been expected since 2009.
Currently, the NSA can only share data from which incidental references to American citizens have been erased. This means that the FBI and the CIA only have access to NSA data on specific individuals which are targets of a federal investigation. However, NSA’s database is actually much larger and contains large amounts of phone metadata, e-mail and digital data from other sources, including data provided by phone and internet providers themselves and from overseas taps on overseas data centers.
The new guidelines for sharing information would allow the FBI, for example, access to NSA raw data which has not been scrubbed of information about American citizens not currently under investigation. Federal agencies are expected to use this new data to look for new leads on existing as well as potential investigations.
According to the Times, The Obama administration has been “quietly developing a framework” for changing the procedures which control how the NSA can share data with other federal agencies since 2009 after George W. Bush issued an executive order making such a change possible in 2008. Obama does not even need Congressional approval to make these changes because of an executive order passed by Reagan in 1981.
The Order Comes Down
Executive Order 12333 entitled ‘United States Intelligence Activities’ gave intelligence agencies permission to collect a much larger amount of data from different sources as well as putting issues of intelligence gathering and surveillance under the President’s purview. The document detailing the new procedures will, however, have to be approved by Intelligence Director James Clapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Civil liberties and privacy rights advocates are worried that the new guidelines will allow federal agencies unprecedented access to private data of American citizens who have not committed any crimes. Not much was known about how the NSA operates and how much data it records until 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a series of NSA documents showing that the federal agency collected much more information than previously thought.
Since 2013 the Obama administration initially showed a willingness to limit some of NSA’s powers, but ultimately decided to simply make mobile provides record metadata and supply it to the NSA on demand instead of the NSA recording it directly. Federal courts have also ruled that the NSA’s surveillance activities are legal.
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