WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency routinely shares "raw" intelligence data with Israel that can include sensitive information about Americans, according to the latest top-secret document leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.
The 2009 document, a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, says the U.S. government regularly hands over intercepted communications that have not first been reviewed by U.S. analysts and are likely to contain phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens.
The agreement even allows for the possibility that intercepts given to Israel might include the communications of U.S. government officials, in which case Israel is supposed to destroy them immediately. Data on U.S. citizens who aren't in the government, however, can be kept by Israel for up to a year, according to the document, first published Wednesday by Britain's Guardian newspaper.
The agreement requires Israel to consult an NSA liaison officer when it finds data on Americans and to adhere to U.S. rules designed to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens, a process known as "minimization." But it's unclear how that requirement is monitored or enforced because the agreement expressly says that it is not legally binding.
The U.S. decision to provide Israel unfiltered electronic intelligence feeds raises questions about why American officials would trust Israel to respect the privacy of U.S. citizens.
Unlike the allies who are part of a long-standing agreement to share signals intelligence with the United States — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — U.S. officials say Israel aggressively seeks to spy on the U.S. government.
Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. naval intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence after being caught spying for Israel in the late 1980s. Secret U.S. intelligence budget documents revealed last month by Snowden list Israel as one of the most aggressive countries seeking to spy on the United States, alongside China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.