The U.S. considers Israel its "number one counterintelligence threat" in the Middle East. But that doesn't stop the NSA from sharing a veritable fire hose of raw intelligence with Israeli spies, according to a new story from the Guardian.
The Guardian published a "memo of understanding" from their Ed Snowden cache, which shows the U.S. shares raw emails and voice communications intercepted by the NSA with Israel. The U.S. has a very complicated relationship, spy-wise, both spying on them and being spied upon by them, all while sharing the fruits of our spying on other people with them.
Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.
The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.
According to the memo, the intelligence must be handled according to U.S. law and Israel can't use it to target U.S. citizens, but there's no legal muscle to makes sure that happens. Americans will just have to trust the Israeli government, with its sterling civil liberties record.