FBI makes clandestine changes to rules governing access to NSA data


A secret court accepted changes to the rules governing the FBI's access to NSA data about US citizen's international emails and phone activity. The Guardian received confirmation from US officials that the classified changes were made to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Group (PCLOB) has previously revealed that the FBI was able to search through NSA's collection of trawled data about international communication. The classified nature of the latest changes mean it is impossible to know exactly what they entail, but they are described as being a step towards "enhancing privacy".

It is also not known quite when the changes were introduced, but they are referred to in PCLOB's surveillance review report. Since 2014, the FBI has been able to search through NSA data, and PCLOB has previously expressed concerns about how data could be used to identify American individuals. The group recommended changes relating to "the FBI’s use and dissemination of Section 702 data in connection with non-foreign intelligence criminal matters" because of concerns about the "substantial" nature of searches.

Details are very thin on the ground, but PCLOB's report says that the changes address some of its concerns through "revised FBI minimization procedures". As reported by the Guardian, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen said:

Changes have been implemented based on PCLOB recommendations, but we cannot comment further due to classification.

But it seems that the classified nature of the changes may not keep the details secret forever. Timothy Barrett, a spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence, said:

As we have done with the 2014 702 minimization procedures, we are considering releasing the 2015 procedures. Due to other ongoing reviews, we do not have a set date that review will be completed.

Photo credit: Bob Venezia / Shutterstock

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