NSA Withholding Details of Thousands of Foreign Intel Violations From CongressDEFENSE ONEMarc Ambinder August 16, 2013
The National Security Agency, exploiting an executive order loophole, does not give Congress detailed information about unlawful signals intelligence collection on United States citizens when those violations come from programs that focus exclusively on foreign intelligence collection outside the U.S., an intelligence official told Defense One on Friday.
In an internal audit report leaked to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, these intelligence collection violations are referred to as Executive Order 12333 transgressions, after the 1981 order sanctioning all NSA activities worldwide. On its website, NSA says it uses “E.O. 12333 authority to collect foreign intelligence from communications systems around the world.”
“Twelve-Triple-3,” as it is known to NSA analysts, is the agency’s bible and specifies the types of foreign intelligence that it can legally collect without court oversight. It also requires that inadvertent collection of unlawful intelligence -- primarily raw data collected on U.S. citizens -- be “minimized” or anonymized, and then destroyed.
The 1978 FISA act forced the NSA to obtain a court order before they could collect foreign intelligence from U.S.-based targets, U.S. citizens, corporations or residents. Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act allows NSA to use U.S. communication infrastructure to target foreigners “reasonably believed” to be outside the United States. Sections 704 and 705(b) permit the NSA to target U.S. persons who are acting as agents of a foreign power or terrorist group, but the NSA must get a FISA order before they can begin interception. Finally, under the business records provision of the PATRIOT Act, the NSA can obtain, with court certification, telephone records from all American service providers.
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