Edward Snowden (The Guardian via Getty Images)
John Bacon, USA TODAY
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without removing information about Americans, The Guardian reported, citing a top-secret document it said was provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data challenges Obama administration assurances that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement in the document, a five-page memorandum between the NSA and Israeli officials, show the U.S. government handed over intercepted communications that probably contain phone calls and e-mails of Americans, the Guardian said.
The deal was reached in March 2009, according to the undated memo, which lays out ground rules for the intelligence sharing. The Guardian said the memo, termed an agreement between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies "pertaining to the protection of U.S. persons," repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.
But the memo places no limits on the use of the data by the Israelis. It says Israel is allowed to receive raw "sigint intelligence" that "includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content."
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove U.S. communications, the Guardian reported.
Snowden faces U.S. charges under the Espionage Act for leaking information to reporters, particularly the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, about the National Security Agency's surveillance and data-gathering network.
The first publications in May drew media attention around the world. Snowden went into hiding in Hong Kong, but is now living in Russia after being granted temporary asylum there.