US Intelligence Agencies Gain Access to NSA Data

One of former president Barack Obama’s final actions as president was signing off on Executive Order 12333. The order outlines procedures for sharing raw signals intelligence information between the National Security Agency (NSA) and 16 other US intelligence agencies.

Raw intelligence refers to telecommunications data that has not yet been filtered to omit information deemed irrelevant for the purposes of retention, collection, and transmission between government agencies. This includes data that was retained by means of interception, as well as information that was collected and retained by the NSA prior to the Executive Order going into effect.

The Order, claiming to protect the rights of US citizens as listed under the Fourth Amendment, mostly outlines protections for “non-U.S. persons,” citing securities listed in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as additional restrictions concerning non-U.S. persons. Also excluded from the Order is select data concerning the NSA itself.

All types of telecommunication data spanning across various technologies are susceptible to being shared with the 16 intelligence agencies who have been granted access to the information, including metadata which discloses location related information such as IP address, telephony routing info (like phone numbers), and much more.

That being said, the Executive Order focuses on information pertaining to non-U.S. persons, particularly communications. As outlined in the Order, the primary instance in which “domestic” personal data is susceptible to being shared is when a U.S. person is in correspondence with a non-U.S. person who is a current FISA target.

While such data is now available to agencies other than the NSA, queries must be filed to an official (elected by the NSA) in order for any agency to obtain said data. The request process, as outlined in the Executive Order, however, is not as involved as one may imagine. And on the end of the NSA, no re-examination or re-evaluation of the requested data is necessary prior to its sharing between agencies.

Data obtained by a respective intelligence agency is subject to deletion after five years from its initial date of retention by the NSA. All (irrelevant) domestic communications included in correspondences with non-U.S. persons must be deleted by The Attorney General.

New permissions granted under Executive Order 12333 may read as familiar to UK citizens who recently saw the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter. England’s Investigatory Powers Bill, however, included a vague plan for creating an infrastructure designed to collect and retain communications data, which mandates a latency period for the new legislation coming into effect. But in the United States, that infrastructure already exists - making Obama’s Executive Order effective immediately.

One way to browse the web without worrying about your communications data being read by the NSA and its respective intelligence agencies, is by utilizing a web browser with virtual private network capabilities such as Tenta Browser.

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