The U.S. National Security Agency takes multiple steps to protect the privacy of the information it collects about U.S. residents under a secretive surveillance program, according to a report from the agencys privacy office.
Surveillance under presidential Executive Order 12333, which dates back to 1981, generally sets the ground rules for the NSAs overseas surveillance. It allows the agency to keep the content of U.S. citizens communications if they are collected incidentally while the agency is targeting overseas communications.
But the surveillance of U.S. residents is conducted with several privacy safeguards in place, ensuring that the NSA collects the right information from the right targets and does not share the collected information inappropriately, according to the NSA Civil Liberties and Privacy Office report, released Tuesday.
NSA safeguards include privacy training for every employee, an oath of office that requires all employees to protect privacy and civil liberties and privacy oversight by six internal organizations, including the office that prepared Tuesdays report.
Consistent communication from NSA leadership on protecting privacy has resulted in a work force that respects the law, understands the rules, complies with the rules, and is encouraged to report problems and concerns, the report said. NSA takes several steps to ensure that each individual who joins its ranks understands from the first day on the job that civil liberties and privacy protection is a priority and a key personal responsibility.
The privacy safeguards inside the agency dont make up for a lack of robust judicial and congressional oversight of the program, the American Civil Liberties Union said. Oversight from both of those branches of government are all but entirely lacking when it comes to surveillance under this order, Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney, said by email. Rather, these rules can be changed by executive officials unilaterally and in secret, as they have been in the past.
The report doesnt address the privacy issues related to the NSAs separate bulk collection programs, which means it leaves aside some of the NSAs most indiscriminate surveillance programs, Toomey added.
Targeted 12333 surveillance is separate from the so-called bulk collection programs disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including the NSAs collection of most U.S. telephone records and its collection of the online communications of foreigners allegedly connected to terrorism activities.
The NSA has not disclosed how many U.S. communications it has collected under its 12333 program, but a 2007 document released last month by the ACLU, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, describes the surveillance program as the primary source of the NSAs foreign intelligence gathering authority.
Its heartening that the NSA has some privacy protections in place, but significant concerns remain, said Robyn Greene, policy counsel at think tank New America Foundations Open Technology Institute.
Originally posted here:
NSA internal watchdog defends agency's privacy practices