Obama’s administration official are set to get an agreement on new rules controlling information sharing between the NSA and other federal agencies including the CIA and the FBI. These new guidelines have been in the pipeline since 2009. At this time, incidental references to American citizens need to be erased before the NSA can share data, meaning that the CIA and FBI only get access to data on specific individuals who are targeted by a federal investigation.
What is worrying is that the NSAs database is quite extensive and covers a high volume of data including emails, phone metadata and digital data from sources such as telecommunication providers, as well as details obtained from data centers abroad. Under the new information sharing guidelines, the FBI would be allowed to access NSA raw data which still contains information about American citizens, regardless of the fact that they are not currently under investigation. It is believed that federal agencies will use this new data to search for alternative leads on current or potential investigations.
The Times reported that the Obama administration had been working subtly to develop a framework that allows changes in the procedures that control the way data can be shared by the NSA with other federal agencies. These plans have been on process since 2009, shortly after George W. Bush issued an executive order that facilitated this change, back in 2008. Due to an executive order passed in 1981 by then president Ronald Reagan, Obama doesnt even require approval from the Congress in order to carry these changes.
Under Executive Order 12333, entitled United States Intelligence Activities, Intelligence agencies are allowed to collect a larger amount of data from different sources and can bring up concerns of intelligence gathering and surveillance to the president. The only condition is that the document outlining the new procedures need the approval of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Intelligence Director James Clapper.
The introduction of these new guidelines has caused concern among privacy rights activists and civil liberties advocates, who fear that under these procedures, federal agencies will enjoy unprecedented access to private information of American citizens who are not under investigation and who havent committed any crime. Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents from the organization in 2013, the general public is more aware of the way in which the NSA operates and the fact that it collects more data than it was previously thought.
While in 2013, the Obama administration expressed its willingness to limit some of the NSAs capacities, in the end the changes were not significant and were not designed to prevent invasion to privacy. For instance, mobile providers have to record metadata and supply it to the NSA when required, meaning that the NSA doesnt have to record it directly. Additionally, the NSAs surveillance programs have been declared as legal by Federal courts so it is expected that their control over data and their ability to share it with other agencies will continue expanding.