What did they think they were agreeing to? Eating ice cream?

Occasionally the gap between what I know for a fact and what appears in the newspapers to cries of shock! horror! is wide. Take the NSA and Snowden for instance. Of course the NSA and CSE and every other British commonwealth signals intelligence agency has been vacuuming everyone’s email and phone messages for years. What did you think they were doing? Playing bridge with each other in those sealed conclaves of Cray computers? They are not looking for you or your porn habits, your secret trysts, or your bad habits, though I am sure a  moment’s tracking will reveal everything you ever wanted to hide. They are looking for patterns that indicate Islamic terrorism, needles in haystacks the size of Jupiter. We are more transparent to them than the Emperor Shaddam IV was to the Guild Navigators.

The top lawyer for the National Security Agency told a civil liberties oversight board on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s data collection – knowledge which the firms have vigorously denied having.

NSA general counsel Rajesh De said companies like Facebook and Google had complete knowledge of all communications information and metadata collected by the agency pursuant to the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, whether the material was gathered by the internet data-mining program PRISM or by the “so-called ‘upstream’ collection of communications moving across the internet,” the Guardian reported.

How could they not know? The tech companies had signed agreements with the NSA, acting under authority of law, to conform to the intelligence requirements of signals intelligence agencies. This from Wikipedia:

The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act also added a new Title VII to FISA which contained provisions similar, but not identical, to provisions in the Protect America Act of 2007 which had expired earlier in 2008. The new provisions in Title VII of FISA were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012, but two days before the U.S. Senate extended the FISA Amendments Act for five years (until December 31, 2017) which renews the U.S. government’s authority to monitor electronic communications of foreigners abroad.[8]

Section 702 permits the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, but is limited to targeting non-U.S. persons. Once authorized, such acquisitions may last for periods of up to one year.

Under subsection 702(b) of the FISA Amendments Act, such an acquisition is also subject to several limitations. Specifically, an acquisition:

    May not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States;

  • May not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;
  • May not intentionally target a U.S. person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;
  • May not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States;
  • Must be conducted in a manner consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Section 702 authorizes foreign surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA), like PRISM and some earlier data collection activities which were previously authorized under the President’s Surveillance Program from 2001

You ask, quite reasonably, does this not exempt US citizens?

Yes it does.

So how do you collect data on US citizens?

Simple. What do you think the CSE does? The British and Australian counterparts?

Oh. So every signals intelligence agency uses its foreign intelligence powers to snoop on citizens of other countries and then shares data with a select trusted few agencies according to long-standing agreements?

Yes. The intelligence sharing among Anglosphere signal intelligence agencies is a deeper political fact than NATO.

Without breaking any law?

Yes. But note that, if any foreigner is involved, then the NSA can legally target the communications, even if the preponderance of them involves resident US citizens. So if Abu-Jihad abd el Nasir is targeted, his American correspondents in the territory of the US are a legitimate target.

The lies and hypocrisy start when the Googles of this world deny their active cooperation. The phone companies have been hand in glove with the intelligence agencies for ever, and why should it be any different in the Internet-protocol world?

And did I forget to mention Executive Order 12333 on the subject of US Intelligence activities?