In the latest revelations about the ongoing dragnet surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, The Guardian revealed Wednesday how a vast extent of UK citizens' phone, internet and email communications have been swept up, stored, and analyzed by the NSA, who cut a secret deal with British intelligence officials to do so.
As The Guardian reports, the news is "the first explicit confirmation that UK citizens have been caught up in US mass surveillance programs."
According to the leaks provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in 2007 NSA rules were changed following an agreement with the GCHQ, allowing the NSA agency to collect "British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet," the Guardian reports—data that had been previously been protected and "stripped out of NSA databases" by the GHCQ.
The UK paper reports:
An NSA memo describes how in 2007 an agreement was reached that allowed the agency to "unmask" and hold on to personal data about Britons that had previously been off limits.
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The memo, published in a joint investigation by the Guardian and Britain's Channel 4 News, says the material is being put in databases where it can be made available to other members of the US intelligence and military community.
Britain and the US are the main two partners in the 'Five-Eyes' intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Until now, it had been generally understood that the citizens of each country were protected from surveillance by any of the others.
The report also reveals a leaked draft derective from 2005 wherein the NSA drafted policies that would allow its staff to spy on citizens in countries included in the "Five-Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance—including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada—despite instances where the partner countries had denied permission to do so.
It was unclear at the time of reporting whether or not this draft policy has become official. A spokeswoman for the NSA declined to answer questions from The Guardian.