New NSA leak says US citizens' data kept

2013-06-21 07:24
Edward Snowden (File, AFP)

Edward Snowden (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The US National Security Agency can keep copies of intercepted communications from or about US citizens if the material contains significant intelligence or evidence of crimes, according to top secret documents published on Thursday by The Guardian newspaper.

The new details are the latest leaked by a 29-year-old former NSA contractor who fled to Hong Kong and has been divulging previously secret programmes for collecting US phone records and internet data.

President Barack Obama and other top officials have defended the programmes, which have again raised the debate over national security and individual privacy.

Attention turned on Thursday to the security clearance background check conducted on Edward Snowden, and a government watchdog testified there may have been problems with it.

Problems with background check

USIS, the company that conducted the security clearance investigation of the former NSA systems analyst, is now under investigation itself, Patrick McFarland, the US Office of Personnel Management's inspector general, told a Senate hearing.

He declined to say what triggered the inquiry, but when asked if there were concerns about Snowden's background check, McFarland answered: "Yes, we do believe that there may be some problems."

USIS said in a statement that it has never been informed that it is under criminal investigation, and it declined to comment on whether it conducted a background investigation of Snowden.

The new documents revealed by The Guardian concern the scope of two recently disclosed NSA programmes - one that gathers US phone records and another that is designed to track the use of US-based internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism.

Point-by-point directions

The documents were signed by the country's top lawyer, Attorney General Eric Holder. They include point-by-point directions on how an NSA employee must work to determine that a person being targeted has not entered the United States.

If the NSA finds the target has entered the US, it will stop gathering phone and internet data immediately, the documents say. If supervisors determine that information on a US person or a target who entered the US was intentionally targeted, that information is destroyed, according to the documents.

But if a foreign target has conversations with an American or a US-based person whom NSA supervisors determine is related to terrorism, or the communication contains significant intelligence or evidence of crimes, that call or email or text message can be kept indefinitely.

Encrypted communications also can be kept indefinitely, according the documents.

Administration officials had said the US phone records NSA gathered could only be kept for five years. A fact sheet those officials provided to reporters mentioned no exceptions.

The documents outline fairly broad authority when the NSA monitors a foreigner's communications.

For instance, if the monitored foreigner has been criminally indicted in the US and is speaking to legal counsel, NSA has to cease monitoring the call.

The agency, however, can log the call and mine it later so long as conversation protected by attorney-client privilege is not used in legal proceedings against the foreigner.

Snowden fired

The NSA had no comment when asked about the newly revealed documents.

Booz Allen Hamilton, the company where Snowden was working at the time of the disclosures, fired him for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy.

The company said he had been a Booz Allen employee for less than three months.

Snowden worked previously at the CIA and probably obtained his security clearance there. But like others who leave the government to join private contractors, he was able to keep his clearance after he left and began working for outside firms.

Of the 4.9 million people with clearance to access "confidential and secret" government information, 1.1 million, or 21%, work for outside contractors, according to a January report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Of the 1.4 million who have the higher "top secret" access, 483 000, or 34%, work for contractors.
Read more on:    nsa  |  edward snowden  |  us  |  privacy

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.