WASHINGTON – The U.S. National Security Agency shares raw surveillance data with Israel without first removing information about American citizens, according to a document leaked to The Guardian newspaper by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The arrangement is described in a memorandum between the two countries that allows the NSA to pass signals intelligence — phone calls, faxes and other data scooped up in eavesdropping — to Israeli intelligence services, the British daily reported, posting the document online.
According to the memorandum, the intelligence data being shared would not be filtered in advance by the NSA to process out U.S. communications or details about American citizens caught in the dragnet.
“NSA routinely sends ISNU (the Israeli Sigint National Unit) minimized and unminimized raw collection,” the memorandum states.
U.S. President Barack Obama has insisted that sweeping surveillance activity by the NSA is conducted under strict rules that respect the privacy of American citizens. Intelligence officials say the spy agency protects privacy rights through what it calls “minimization,” restricting what data are examined by NSA analysts.
But the five-page, undated memorandum refers to unminimized, raw data flowing to Israel.
Asked about the report, the NSA said it always protects privacy rights when it enters into intelligence sharing arrangements. Throughout the memorandum, there are repeated references to upholding Americans’ privacy rights and to the fact that Israeli spy services are obliged to respect those rights.