The New York Times reported this morning that the Obama administration has put into place new rules allowing the NSA to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information.” According to a 23-page, mostly declassified copy of the procedures, released today, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed the rules on Dec. 15 and Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed them on Jan. 3.
The changes have been a long time coming. On February 25, 2016, Charlie Savage reported for the Times that the Obama administration would soon be implementing a new system, years in the making, to provide more intelligence agencies across the federal government direct access to raw information collected by the NSA.
Recall that Executive Order 12333 permits dissemination of signals intelligence data only in accordance with procedures established by the DNI in coordination with the Defense Secretary and approved by the Attorney General. Under existing rules promulgated pursuant to the order, NSA analysts have long been tasked with filtering the surveillance information for the rest of the government—searching and evaluating the information directly, passing on only those portions of emails and phone calls that they determine relevant to colleagues at other agencies, and masking names and other information about innocent Americans using minimization procedures. The new framework does not change or expand communications collection, but puts into place procedures that allow the NSA to share certain raw, unminimized signals intelligence information with other Intelligence Community elements, specifically for authorized foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.
We’ll update this post shortly with a summary of the procedures as described in the newly released document. In the meantime, check out Bob Litt’s helpful April Just Security post on the topic here.
[UPDATE: See our summary of the procedures here.]