21 November 2013
NSA Authorized to Spy on British
The NY Times does not appear to have published this memo. If available elsewhere
please provide pointer: cryptome[at]earthlink. Current
tally of Snowden
documents released (not counting this alleged memo): 522 pages of reported
50,000 (or 1%). (NSA Director claims 200,000 (or .25%).)
US-UK Agreements 1940-1956:
United States Can Spy on Britons Despite Pact, N.S.A. Memo Says
By JAMES GLANZ
Published: November 20, 2013
The National Security Agency is authorized to spy on the citizens of
America’s closest allies, including Britain, even though those
English-speaking countries have long had an official non-spying pact, according
to a newly disclosed memorandum.
The classified N.S.A. document, which appears to be a draft and is dated
January 2005, states that under specific circumstances, the American intelligence
agency may spy on citizens of Britain without that country’s consent
or knowledge. The memo, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J.
Snowden, is labeled secret and “NOFORN,” indicating that it may
not be shared with any foreign country.
In recent months, the N.S.A.’s activities have stoked anger across the
world after leaked documents have exposed American spying on political and
economic partners like Germany and France, as well as various foreign leaders.
But until now, there has been almost nothing disclosed about spying among
the “Five Eyes” countries — the United States and its close
intelligence partners Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The N.S.A. declined to respond to questions on whether the draft became official
policy and whether spying on Britain without its consent had ever taken place.
But portions of the document appear to indicate that, whether by formal agreement
or simply longstanding practice, both Britain and the United States believed
that in extraordinary circumstances, one country might feel compelled to
spy on citizens of the other.
In a reference to an intelligence-sharing compact struck in March 1946, the
memo said the two nations had agreed “that both governments will not
target each other’s citizens/persons.”
That agreement, however, came with a caveat that “when it is in the
best interest of each nation,” unilateral spying by one nation on the
other could take place, the memo says. It goes on to expand that mandate
to allow spying by the United States on any of the Five Eyes countries.
The memo was provided by Mr. Snowden to The Guardian, which shared it with
The New York Times. The N.S.A. also declined to say whether the memorandum
merely codified longstanding American practice or was breaking new ground.
“NSA works with a number of partners and allies in meeting its
foreign-intelligence mission goals, and in every case those operations comply
with U.S. law and with the applicable laws under which those partners and
allies operate,” the agency said in a written reply to questions.
One former senior intelligence official said he had been unaware there were
any exceptions to the policy of the five nations sharing intelligence information
with each other, but said he would be surprised if the United States chose
to spy on its closest allies very frequently.
“They would do this unilaterally so rarely and in such extraordinary
circumstances because they would be so concerned about hurting the
relationship,” said the former official, who spoke only on condition
of anonymity. “My bet is that they wouldn’t go to that well very
The memo contains several protocols on who should be alerted, and under what
circumstances, when spying must take place on other Five Eyes countries —
also referred to as “Second Party” countries.
One paragraph, marked secret, appears to suggest that the preferred option
is to gain permission from the country whose citizens are to be spied upon.
But the very next paragraph, marked secret and NOFORN, indicates that the
N.S.A. can go it alone if permission is not forthcoming — or if United
States chooses not to ask.
“When sharing the planned targeting information with a Second Party
would be contrary to U.S. interests, or when the Second Party declines a
collaboration proposal, the proposed targeting must be presented to the Signals
Intelligence Director for approval with justification for the criticality
of the proposed collection,” the passage explains.
It goes on to say that if that spying is approved, the information it gleans
“must be maintained in NOFORN channels” — i.e., never shared
with the spied-upon country.
A footnote goes further, suggesting that if a Five Eyes citizen is outside
of his or her own country, the limits are lifted. In that case, the memo
says, “there may be no restrictions associated with that collection”
outside of basic N.S.A. rules on avoiding spying on innocent Americans and
The memo does not detail how much, if at all, these orders differ from existing
practice among the spying partners. Even the memo’s purpose is classified
secret and NOFORN: “This management directive establishes United States
Signals Intelligence System (USSS) policy and procedures related to the targeting
of Second Party Persons.”
From the start, the document raises the intriguing question of whether American
and British spy agencies have been loosening the rules established in the
nonspying compact of 1946. After referring to the compact, the memo contains
a passage stating that “this agreement has evolved” to include
the understanding that Britain and the United States would not spy on each
But in the next two sentences, the memo asserts that the countries
“reserved the right” to spy on each other “when it is in the
best interest of each nation.”