Report: NSA received broader authority for overseas intelligence

The National Security Agency (NSA) has broader authority to spy on foreign governments than previously known, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The documents, leaked by Edward Snowden, show the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a legal certification in 2010 for the NSA to intercept information for all but four countries.

One document from 2010 listed 193 countries about which the U.S. had the authority to collect intelligence. The usual suspects and U.S. allies are on the list, including Afghanistan, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. 

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The list excludes the "Five Eyes" — Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.S. — which have a long-term no-spying arrangement.

Every year, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act must approve a new certification, signed by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence, to authorize the surveillance, the documents suggest.

The certification allowed the NSA to gather information about foreign entities including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.

The Post noted that the NSA’s elastic authority allows the agency to intercept overseas communications of U.S. companies and any of their targets. The documents also contain language that could allow for spying of human rights researchers, journalists and academics, the report said. 

NSA officials declined to comment on the certification or acknowledge the documents’ authenticity to the Post.

This report comes two days after NSA Director Mike Rogers told The New York Times that the U.S. has slightly changed its foreign intelligence-gathering operations to reflect reforms President Obama announced in January. 

“There are some specific targets where we’ve been instructed, ‘Hey, don’t collect against them anymore,’” he said. He declined to specify how many beyond noting, “Probably more than half a dozen, but not in the hundreds by any means.”