NSA Worked Out Deal With GCHQ To Spy On UK Citizens, Secretly Expanded It

from the funny-how-that-works dept

Early on in the Snowden leaks, it became clear that the NSA and its UK equivalent, GCHQ, had a very close relationship, sharing lots of data with each other. We noted a convenient potential byproduct of this collaboration: while, technically speaking, NSA isn't supposed to spy on Americans and GCHQ isn't supposed to spy in UK citizens, if they spy on the others' citizens and then share the results, they can get around that loophole. In response to that, the NSA, GCHQ and the three other signals intelligence agencies that make up the so-called "Five Eyes" surveillance collaboration between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, suggested that they had "minimization" procedures in place not to actually spy on "non-target" citizens of each members' countries.

But, of course, that's not what's actually happening. The latest Snowden document published by The Guardian reveals two important, but related things. First, the GCHQ and the NSA worked out a deal to let the NSA spy much more broadly on UK citizens, allowing them to build a database of previously "restricted" materials on UK citizens. Second, the NSA appears to have taken this small opening by the GCHQ to spy on the UK citizens under certain circumstances and massively expanded it, without telling GCHQ.
First, the NSA and GCHQ decreased the rules for "minimization" on "incidentally collected" information, allowing it to be "unminimized" (which most people would call "maximized"), in 2007. Basically, the GCHQ allowed the NSA to do pattern analysis on all that data from UK persons, which had previously been off limits. The idea was to try to piece together connections to suspected terrorists, drug dealers and criminals. Technically, the new "agreement" barred targeting UK citizens to look at the content of their communications. However, as another revealed memo also shows, the NSA took this small opening to conclude that it can basically surf through GCHQ data at will -- something it purposely chose not to inform GCHQ about -- so long as it was good for the US.
The document, titled 'Collection, Processing and Dissemination of Allied Communications', has separate classifications from paragraph to paragraph. Some are cleared to be shared with America's allies, while others – marked "NF", for No Foreign – are to be kept strictly within the agency. The NSA refers to its Five-Eyes partners as "second party" countries.

The memo states that the Five-Eyes agreement "has evolved to include a common understanding that both governments will not target each other's citizens/persons".

But the next sentence – classified as not to be shared with foreign partners – states that governments "reserved the right" to conduct intelligence operations against each other's citizens "when it is in the best interests of each nation".

"Therefore," the draft memo continues, "under certain circumstances, it may be advisable and allowable to target second party persons and second party communications systems unilaterally, when it is in the best interests of the US and necessary for US national security."
Basically, GCHQ agreed to share more data on UK persons under the understanding that it wouldn't be abused, and the NSA took the opportunity to tell NSA folks "feel free to abuse it" so long as you can claim "it's in the best interests of the US." And they didn't let anyone in the UK know about that part. In other parts of the document -- which are shared with the Five Eyes partners, the NSA makes it sound like it will work collaboratively with those agencies when it comes up with important terrorist/criminal information.

Of course, you also have to assume that this original deal was not one-sided. It almost certainly involved the NSA telling GCHQ that it could also collect data and "unminimize" information it collected on US persons as well. And, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that the GCHQ has similar procedures in place that give it "for the good of the UK" exceptions to whatever limits the NSA tried to place on such data.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymoose, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 1:05pm

    This sort of thing goes back to the 80's, at least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 1:13pm

    Yeah, problem is their definition of "persons" really means "citizens",

    so the lawyers say it's "legal" to spy on anyone in another country. The globalist totalitarians use even national sovereignty against us even working together to make a New World Order that'll do away with nations, besides human rights.

    Just because a lot of people have gotten a lot of easy money off teh internets doesn't make it a plus overall: at the very least, the Internet enables spying on scale and in detail as never before.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Mark Wing, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 1:16pm

    The [American] fox in the hen house says "There are no [British] foxes in the hen house."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Dominic Sayers (profile), Nov 20th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Do not assume anything of the sort

    "Of course, you also have to assume that this original deal was not one-sided."

    You should not assume any such thing. The UK has a history of rolling over and letting the Septics have whatever they want with nothing asked in return.

    Check the 2003 Extradition Treaty for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK%E2%80%93US_extradition_treaty_of_2003

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

    It's long, long past time to shut down the US.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Ronny Bryson, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 6:14pm

    This sounds like treason, each country betraying its own citizens to another. They are so busy trying to change the rules, evade the laws, make new laws.
    What it boils down to is not being able to trust our governments or our allies.
    A serious look at the mental health of our government members is needed.
    This whole thing is just made of corruption upon corruption.
    time to clean house.
    And we the people should not let them do it themselves.
    Light the torches, lets go root out Frankenstein.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Nov 21st, 2013 @ 5:22am

    Re: Yeah, problem is their definition of "persons" really means "citizens",

    So why are you on it?

    Quick, get your tinfoil hat on to protect your malformed cerebral cortex from teh googlez spy rays!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Nov 21st, 2013 @ 8:00am

    Transparency

    Well at least we know what they mean by transparency...

    It means transparency for the organizations for your data but none for the people's lives it affects.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2013 @ 11:15am

    I've been saying that governments have been using this loop-hole to bypass domestic law. GCHQ spies on US citizens, and the NSA spies on UK citizens.

    Then NSA and GCHQ give each other access to their data bases, bypassing all laws and regulations.

    Not that laws matter at all to the NSA. US has no legal data sharing agreement with Israel, yet illegally hands over "unminimized" information on US citizens to Israel anyways.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Jim Anderson, Nov 21st, 2013 @ 3:55pm

    Re:

    Ronny it's not so much a country betraying it's own citizens to another government it is using the other government to get around protections built into law. I can't cite were I read this but it isn't an original idea of mine. An example would be the Canadian government using US government spying on a Canadian that is illegal under Canadian law. The spying on the Canadian could occur even if he was in Canada. Certainly this is a nasty dirty business and a clear betrayal of the citizens of all the countries involved. There is probably more going on than this but this is bad enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Rekrul, Nov 21st, 2013 @ 4:29pm

    Basically, GCHQ agreed to share more data on UK persons under the understanding that it wouldn't be abused, and the NSA took the opportunity to tell NSA folks "feel free to abuse it" so long as you can claim "it's in the best interests of the US." And they didn't let anyone in the UK know about that part.

    What makes you think that the UK would care? I mean other than being jealous that the NSA gets to spy on British citizens more than they do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Shamara Rochelle Simpson, Nov 25th, 2013 @ 10:56pm

    i have only one government that i answer to that is my FATHER GOD, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. I AM GOVERNED BY NO OTHER. I LIVE BY AND SERVE HIM BY HIS LAWS HIS COMMANDMENTS. BUT NO OTHER GOVERNS OVER ME. ONE NATION UNDER GOD OH YES I STAND BESIDE MY FELLOW BRETHREN. I HAVE GOD GIVEN RIGHTS JUST AS MOSES, JESUS, AND EVER MAN THERE AFTER. I CAN STAND ON MY GOD GIVEN RIGHTS. EVERY MANS FREEDOM, TO PURSUE PEACE, AND HAPPINESS, THIS IS NOT A JOKE AND IF MAN MADE GOVERNMENTS THINK THEY CAN TAKE AWAY MY GOD GIVEN RIGHTS THEY HAVE ANOTHER THING COMING, IN JESUS NAME AMEN.... SLAVERY, WAS FORBIDDEN AND GOD SENT MOSES TO SET HIS PEOPLE FREE. WELL JESUS OUR SAVIOR FINISHED IT. GET BEHIND ME SATIN, FOR I AM AN HEIR TO THE KING ABOVE ALL KINGS, AS HEIRS I HAVE ALL AUTHORITY OVER ALL THINGS THAT ARE AGAINST MY FATHERS THROWN AND HIS CHILDREN IN JESUS NAME AMEN AND AMEN...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2013 @ 9:45pm

    Re:

    Yo there, Shamara Rochelle Simpson....

    If ye really want to show the world how right and righteous you are, you should contact the FBI - er... I mean the World Terrorist Bad Guys Organization - WTBGO (pronounced "White Boy Go") for short, at www.wtbgo.org immediately, cuz they really love guys/gals with your sort of self righteous mental disorder. They'll get you your very own truck fulla bombs and set you up for a big front page display of your pious self scrifice too.

    BTW: Yer not related to Homer J. are you??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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