17.1.17

NSA Begins Sharing Raw Signals Intelligence

The Obama administration finalized new rules under Executive Order 12333 that have long been in the works, allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to share raw signals intelligence collected through various means with the 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies without first applying legally required privacy protections. Previously, the NSA applied privacy protections before sending raw intelligence to other agencies to minimize the availability of data on U.S. persons collected incidentally. Now, any agency can request—with justification—raw intelligence and apply the privacy protections themselves.

The Cipher Take: The changes have been in process for a number of years and seek to address the issue of stovepiping, whereby federal agencies do not share enough data and important information fails to surface when relevant. The changes do not alter the methods of collection or the privacy standards in place—rather, the expectation is that other intelligence agencies will be just as rigorous in applying minimization procedures as the NSA. However, the changes do create the chance of the FBI viewing incidentally collected data on U.S. persons—such as data being stored and travelling internationally—without first obtaining a warrant, a major issue for privacy advocates.

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