March, 2017

Federal Government Agencies Get
Expanded Access to Private Data

 In January 2017, the prior Administration enacted rules designed to allow the National Security Agency to share “raw” signals intelligence gathered under the provisions of Executive Order 12333, as amended in 2008, with 16 other agencies.  Under previous rules, such information would be filtered before being sent to other agencies to remove the identities and non-relevant personal information of innocent people in the U.S.

 According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the new rules “do not alter the rules that apply to the NSA’s collection, retention, or dissemination of information, other than to permit the NSA to disseminate raw SIGINT information that it has already lawfully collected under E.O. 12333 to other authorized IC recipients [and] do not alter the legal authorities or civil liberties or privacy protections provided by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and by Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28), Signals Intelligence Activities.”  The Director’s Office also explained that a “domestic communication” should only rarely be encountered, for the NSA’s mission is focused on foreign intelligence.  If a domestic communication is inadvertently collected, it should be “promptly” destroyed, unless the Attorney General determines the communication contains a threat of serious bodily harm or death to any person.  Further, a “recipient element may permanently retain communications to, from, or about U.S. persons only if they are: (1) foreign communications and (2) the element has processed the communications so as to eliminate any U.S. person information (defined by the procedures to be ‘information that is reasonably likely to identify one or more specific U.S. persons’) or the element has determined that the dissemination of such communications without elimination of reference to such U.S. persons would be permitted under the dissemination provisions of these procedures.”

 In a January article at The Intercept, the writer stated, “Under 12333, the NSA taps phone and internet backbones throughout the world, records the phone calls of entire countries, vacuums up traffic from Google and Yahoo’s data centers overseas, and more,” and that the “NSA uses 12333 as a legal basis for an internal NSA search engine that spans more than 850 billion phone and internet records and contains the unfiltered private information of millions of Americans.”

 ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani released the following statement:

“The procedures released today allow more agencies to directly access information collected by the NSA without a warrant under procedures that are grossly inadequate. This raises serious concerns that agencies that have responsibilities such as prosecuting domestic crimes, regulating our financial policy, and enforcing our immigration laws will now have access to a wealth of personal information that could be misused. Congress needs to take action to regulate and provide oversight over these activities.”

Sources:  Alex Emmons, “Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump,”, January 13, 2017: https://; Michael Walsh, “Surprise: At the End, Obama Administration Gave NSA Broad New Powers,”, February 15, 2017: surprise-at-the-end-obama-administrati on-gave-nsa-broad-new-powers/; “ACLU Comment on Expansion of NSA Information Sharing,”, January 12, 2017:; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Fact Sheet on E.O. 12333:

City-Wide Search Warrant Issued Based on
Certain Google Searches

 A district court judge in Minnesota signed a search warrant in February, 2017, to get information from Google for anyone in the City of Edina who used Google to search for a specific name between December 1, 2016, and January 7, 2017.  The information requested, and ordered by the judge, include subscriber information, the dates and times of searches, Social Security Numbers, IP addresses, and account information.

Sources: Miguel Otárola, “Police get search warrant for everyone who Googled Edina resident's name,”, March 18, 2017:; David Kravetz, “Judge OKs warrant to reveal who searched a crime victim’s name on Google,”, March 17, 2017;; Link to application for search warrant and the search warrant:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor