Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Secret NSA Deal Lets Israel Spy on Americans’ Communications

israel u.s. flagsFormer NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has dropped another bombshell, revealing in a leak of top-secret US documents that the National Security Agency (NSA) has a secret deal with Israel in which that nation is granted access to raw intelligence data.

The Guardian, which received the classified documents from Snowden, reports the NSA routinely turns over Americans’ phone and email communications to the Israelis without first filtering the intelligence to remove information about US citizens.

In a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, details of the intelligence sharing agreement reveal that the US placed no legally binding limits on how the Israelis can use the data they receive. The agreement has been in effect since 2009.

The latest revelation from Snowden, who is currently living in Russia after being granted temporary asylum there last month, seems to contradict claims by President Barack Obama that there are robust safeguards in effect to ensure the privacy of US citizens whose communications are being spied on or, in this case, shared with allies.

The five-page memorandum does assert the need for Israeli authorities to respect the constitutional right of Americans to privacy, although there is no way of knowing whether or not the Israelis indeed respected those rights.

“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the memorandum states.

An NSA spokesman assured the Guardian that “any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’s surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights.”

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