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The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
– 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

In the latest NSA revelation from Russia’s Edward Snowden we learn of a march 2009 agreement between the National Security Agency and Israel. The issue is not the agreement it self or the fact that our government is sharing the information with our ally, but the data is given to the Jewish State without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens.  This is not to say Israel is using the data about Americans (we made them promise they wouldn’t) but the transfer of unscrubbed data about American citizens to any foreign nation, without an valid court order certainly raises constitutional issues.

This latest revelation points to another “mistruth” lie this President has passed along to the American people:

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

Despite the fact privacy was stressed, the agreement wasn’t executed with privacy in mind.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

“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 document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.

Beyond Obama’s lie about safeguards, this program is way over the line. It’s wrong for the NSA to share data about any American Citizen with Israel or any other ally. Especially in the form of an unscrubbed data dump. If a partner country would like information about a particular American there are legal channels they can go through.

The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the FISA court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.

I am not suggesting that we should be withholding information from Israel as they are one of  our strongest allies and represent a front in the war on terror, but we have a Constitution and the Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.  

We need to get answers about what data that has been transferred, how its been used, and what other countries with whom we have similar agreements because it doesn’t matter whether it’s Israel or any other country…the Constitution is there for a reason and it must come first.

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