- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
National Security Agency, which uses spy satellites and foreign listening
posts to monitor threats to US security, denied on Monday that it intended
to begin spying on Americans at home.
- Newsweek magazine in its Dec. 13 issue said the NSA was
drafting a memorandum of understanding to clarify ways in which it could
help the FBI track terrorists and criminals in the United States.
- "Under Executive Order, NSA is authorized to provide
technical assistance to law enforcement," a statement from the agency
said. "Any assistance NSA provides is performed in accordance with
federal law and regulations."
- The NSA and CIA are supposed to operate overseas and
not spy on Americans domestically, while the FBI investigates federal crimes
inside the United States.
- The Newsweek article said there was a new alliance between
the NSA and FBI and posed the question: "In their zeal, will the crime-fighters
and electronic sleuths illegally spy on US citizens?"
- But Judith Emmel, NSA spokeswoman, said the intelligence
agency would not be snooping on Americans in the United States.
- "The National Security Agency operates in strict
accordance with US laws and regulations in protecting the privacy rights
of US persons," she said. "Its activities are conducted with
the highest constitutional, legal, and ethical standards."
- The Newsweek article created a stir among some observers,
who saw any link between the NSA and FBI on domestic issues as opening
the door to possible infringement of individual rights to privacy.
- Harvey Kushner, chair of the criminal justice department
at Long Island University, said if the NSA helped the FBI track terrorists
in the United States it would set "a dangerous precedent" and
violate the agency's mission.
- "Do we really want the NSA to be spying on US citizens?"
Kushner said in a statement reacting to the article.
- "Where will it stop? American public opinion over
the years has overwhelmingly spoken against covert and clandestine agencies
mucking around in domestic affairs," he said.
- One intelligence official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, after making checks expressed lack of knowledge of the memorandum
of understanding that Newsweek referred to in its article.
- EPIC Sues NSA Over Snooping
- A Wired News Report http://wired.lycos.com/news/technology/0,1282,32905,00.html
- The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the
National Security Agency to force the release of documents pertaining to
alleged NSA surveillance of American citizens.
- "The charter of the National Security Agency does
not authorize domestic intelligence gathering," <http://www.epic.org
EPIC director Marc Rotenberg said in a statement. "Yet we have reason
to believe that the NSA is engaged in the indiscriminate acquisition and
interception of domestic communications taking place over the Internet."
- In the lawsuit, filed on 3 December in the District Court
of the District of Columbia, the watchdog group asks for public disclosure
of internal NSA documents that discuss the legality of the agency's intelligence
- EPIC also plans to evaluate the legal basis for the interception
of citizen communications by the NSA in a study to be released early next
year. That study will be conducted by a Scottish investigative journalist
and TV producer who conducted a similar investigation for the European
- The European report said there was evidence of the activity
of an internationally coordinated project known as <http://newspub.hotwired.com/news/politics/0,1283,32586,00.htmlEchelon.
It produced the the first public documentation of activities akin to a
long-suspected global project that monitors citizen communications around
- After the National Security Agency refused to provide
legal memoranda on citizen surveillance to the House Intelligence Committee
earlier this year, Representative Porter Goss (R-Florida), chairman of
the oversight panel, reprimanded the agency.
- NSA's rationale for withholding the memos was "unpersuasive
and dubious," Goss wrote in a committee report in May. He noted that
if NSA lawyers "construed the Agency's authorities too permissively,
then the privacy interests of the citizens of the United States could be
- EPIC's lawsuit follows a previous unsuccessful request
to obtain information from the NSA.
- EPIC had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request
to NSA for the surveillance documents shortly after the release of the
Intelligence Committee report. But the NSA never responded to the request,
- The Freedoom of Information Act imposes a time limit
of 20 working days for an agency to respond.