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A new report reveals that a 2007 deal between the United States and United Kingdom gives the National Security Agency (NSA) permission to spy on UK citizens who were never suspected of any wrongdoing.
An NSA memo reveals that a 2007 agreement gave the agency the green light to “unmask” and store personal data on British citizens that was previously protected, the Guardian reports. The data is placed in databases and made available to the U.S. intelligence and military community, according to the memo that was also reported on by Channel 4 News.
Keep in mind that the NSA and GCHQ reportedly harvest massive amounts of data, with the latest reports indicating that the agencies gather information as it travels between Yahoo and Google’s data centers.
The memo also details a “Five-Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance that includes Britain, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Previous reports also revealed that the British GCHQ worked with intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Spain and Sweden in order to share intelligence and enable more widespread surveillance.
Before 2007, information on British citizens was stripped out of NSA databases, a process called “minimization,” under U.S.-UK rules.
However, the latest memo reveals that after 2007 the NSA was given the authority to store and analyze the mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses of British citizens.
The memo reveals that the communications were “incidentally collected” by the NSA, which means that they were not directly targeted for surveillance and “therefore were not suspected of wrongdoing” according to the Guardian.
This practice allows the NSA to examine communications up to three “hops” away from the actual target, meaning that the communications of a contact of a contact of a contact can be examined.
The Guardian reported on Oct. 28 that just three hops for the typical Facebook user could result in gathering data on over 5 million people.
The memo does not reveal if the UK Liaison Office, operated by GCHQ, ever discussed the rule change with government ministers before approving it. It also does not reveal who was responsible for the decision within the intelligence community.
Both Channel 4 and the Guardian asked US and British authorities to clarify what Britain got of the agreements but both governments would not comment.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.