from the funny-how-that-works dept
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.
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.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.
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."
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.