New rule gives agencies more access to raw NSA intel

New rule gives agencies more access to raw NSA intel
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A new rule in the U.S. intelligence community will streamline the process for agencies to receive access to the National Security Agency's (NSA) vast signals intelligence. 

As of Jan. 3, 2017, when Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed off on the matter, agencies have access to raw data on foreign targets collected by the NSA in certain circumstances without the NSA scrubbing the information first. Until now, the NSA enacted safeguards to prevent the sharing of domestic or irrelevant data before sharing the information itself — responsibilities that will now fall on the requesting agencies.  

The NSA will provide raw information when agencies can demonstrate the access will “further, in a significant way, a particular foreign intelligence or counterintelligence mission or function of the element and [explain] why other sources cannot provide the information” through a request by a senior official. The data will not be allowed for law enforcement use. 

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“This access will enable [the intelligence community] elements to bring their own analytic expertise to reviewing that information and to use that information in support of their own missions,” writes the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in a fact sheet. 

There are 16 other intelligence agencies in the U.S. besides the NSA, ranging from military intelligence to the FBI and CIA to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 

Though loosening safeguards might make the intelligence process more efficient, critics say it might also create new privacy concerns. 

"In light of the fact that some of the incoming administration's nominees have consistently sought to minimize privacy protections, the last thing the White House should be doing is expanding agencies' ability to rummage around in our calls, emails or texts without any oversight at all, let alone a warrant,” said Gabe Rottman, deputy director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a written statement.

“Raw intelligence means that this pool of data is going to contain an extraordinary amount of sensitive information about people who have likely done nothing wrong.”