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"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Does NSA/CSS unconstitutionally spy on Americans?

Does NSA/CSS unconstitutionally spy on Americans?

No. NSA/CSS performs SIGINT operations against foreign powers or agents of foreign powers. It strictly follows laws and regulations designed to preserve every American's privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. persons from unreasonable searches and seizures by the U.S. government or any person or agency acting on behalf of the U.S. government.

I believe that as a U.S. person I am not targeted in the United States. What happens when I travel abroad?

U.S. persons traveling abroad are still covered by the same rules, regulations, and oversight procedures.

Who is considered a U.S. Person?

Federal law and executive order define a U.S. Person as:

  • a citizen of the United States
  • an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence
  • an unincorporated association with a substantial number of members who are citizens of the U.S. or are aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence
  • a corporation that is incorporated in the U.S.

How are the activities of NSA/CSS regulated?

The U.S. Constitution, federal law, executive order, and Executive Branch and Department of Defense regulations govern NSA/CSS activities. They are designed to balance the government's need for foreign intelligence information and individual privacy rights in a reasonable way. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) ensure adherence by the Agency to laws and regulations, especially with regard to protection of U.S. citizens' right to privacy (including military and civilian Agency employees -- who are all U.S. citizens).

How is compliance with the regulations monitored?

An effective oversight process involving the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches is in place to ensure that NSA/CSS complies with the regulations. At the very top, the President's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) and the Congressional Oversight Committees (both Senate and House of Representatives) keep fully informed of our intelligence activities. In addition to those entities, the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Justice also provide oversight.

Who verifies the legitimacy of the regulations?

The regulations are approved by the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General and are vetted with the HPSCI and SSCI.

How does NSA/CSS ensure that its employees are aware of and abide by the regulations?

NSA/CSS conducts extensive training of its employees to ensure that the workforce is aware of and understands the regulations governing NSA/CSS activities. The portion of the NSA/CSS workforce charged with foreign intelligence production receives very specific training reminding them of their responsibility to protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Access to intelligence information is contingent upon the completion of such training sessions.

Couldn't the Agency simply ask its allies to provide them with information about U.S. persons?

We have been prohibited by executive order since 1978 from having any person or government agency, whether foreign or U.S. conduct any activity on our behalf that we are prohibited from conducting ourselves. Therefore, NSA/CSS does not ask its allies to conduct such activities on its behalf nor does NSA/CSS do so on behalf of its allies.

Does NSA/CSS have internal oversight?

NSA/CSS has its own internal oversight process within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG has the authority to conduct inspections, audits and investigations to ensure that NSA/CSS operates with integrity, efficiency and effectiveness. The OIG is authorized access to all information, records, reports, documents, electronic systems/material, personnel and physical areas at NSA/CSS HQ and at all field sites. The OIG has several areas of responsibility. With regard to oversight, the OIG is responsible for overseeing compliance with Executive Order 12333 and related implementing directives and regulations to ensure the lawful execution of intelligence operations. Results of their oversight efforts are reported to the Department of Defense and the President's IOB.

In addition, the Deputy Director, NSA, chairs an NSA Intelligence Oversight Board consisting of the Deputy Director, the Inspector General, and the General Counsel. The Board conducts oversight reviews of NSA activities. The NSA General Counsel as well as an office within the Directorate of Operations conduct oversight activities as well.