Privacy seems to have taken a back seat in the United States, with raw data collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) on signal intelligence — or SIGINT in spy parlance — being increasingly shared with more and more agencies within the US intelligence establishment. The data includes emails, text messages and other kinds of phone communications.
The NSA has so far been sharing its gathered intelligence with 16 other US agencies only after removing irrelevant details and names — effectively removing anything non-essential that could jeopardise people's privacy. However, as per new regulations that came into effect only in the new year, the NSA will henceforth share its raw, unedited and unprocessed intelligence data feed with eight other US agencies, as per an Associated Press report.
"In the past there were strict limits on the NSA's dissemination of this data to domestic law enforcement agencies. The new regulations eviscerate those limits," the report quoted Elizabeth Goitein at the Brennan Center for Justice as saying. This would often lead to inter-agency bickering over sharing of intel, which is expected to come to an end now.
Goitein added that although the NSA does not specifically target US citizens and instead focuses on foreign SIGINT, US citizens' conversation may get recorded if they communicate with foreign sources on which the NSA is focusing. And these may now end up in the hands of other US security agencies, including the FBI, the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The AP report also quoted New America's Open Technology Institute policy counsel Robyn Greene as saying: "If the FBI wants to get access to the information, it can make a request to the NSA and say it's for a counter-intelligence investigation and then the NSA can hand it over — without a warrant."