The United States National Security Agency (NSA) is revealed to have shared sensitive intelligence information with Israel that includes data on American citizens, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.
The revelations were made based off of an intelligence-sharing agreement leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
The agreement shows that the U.S. government "handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens."
According to the undated memorandum, the deal between Israel and the U.S was agreed upon in March 2009, and lays out the ground rules for intelligence sharing arrangements between the two allies. The agreement does not place any legally binding limitations on Israel per use of the data.
The memorandum of understanding highlights the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to privacy and emphasizes that the Israeli intelligence should respect these rights. However, the document states that Israel is entitled to receive "unminimized raw SIGINT" - signal intelligence. The document states that "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 shared with Israel would have no advanced filter by NSA analysts to remove U.S. communications. "NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection", it says.
The Obama administration was contacted by The Guardian to find out how many times data relating to private American citizens had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files.
Officials declined to respond or to disclose information on 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 U.S. information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.
In its statement, the NSA said: "We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.
"NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information."