President Barack Obama is using part of his final days in office to loosen restrictions on the type of information the National Security Agency is allowed to share with other government spying agencies.
Under previous restrictions, the NSA was only permitted to share foreign intelligence information with outside agencies once the raw data had been scrubbed of any domestic or potentially irrelevant information.
The safeguard was meant to protect Americans’ constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy from government snoops who may accidentally come across incriminating information in raw intelligence data or exploit their relationships with NSA to get access to personal information without a warrant.
Gabe Rottman, deputy director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement that privacy advocates expect government abuses will follow Obama’s move.
“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,” he said.
Rottman added: “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.”
Government officials, meanwhile, argue that the move will simply make the government’s intelligence efforts more efficient.
“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,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said.
The following agencies will now have access to raw NSA data:
With so many agencies on the list with a heavily domestic investigative focus, it’s easy to see why privacy advocates are concerned about what this means for the privacy of American citizens.