Surveillance state: the NSA doesn't stand alone

The NSA is supposed to be America's offshore spy agency, forbidden from spying on Americans. But as an important article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Nadia Kayyali points out, the FBI, DEA and other US agencies have closely integrated the NSA into their own efforts, using the NSA's mass surveillance to gather intelligence on Americans -- as Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide discloses, the NSA isn't a stand-alone agency, it is part of an overarching surveillance state.

And it’s not just the FBI that we should be concerned about. The NSA’s role in ordinary investigations is not new information. But every document that expands on the NSA’s involvement in anything domestic, and not national security related, should ring alarm bells for everyone in the United States. We know now that:

* The NSA data is fed to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s “Special Operations Division.” The DEA in turn uses this information in ordinary investigations, while cloaking the source– even from judges and prosecutors.

* The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized the NSA to share unminimized data with the FBI, as well as the CIA, with the “Raw Take” order. Prior to this “agencies [had] to 'minimize' private information about Americans — deleting data that is irrelevant for intelligence purposes before providing it to others.”

* Information sharing between the FBI, NSA, and CIA has been routinized through “software which would automatically gather a list of tasked PRISM selectors every two weeks to provide to the FBI and CIA.” (slide31.jpg). Similarly, the NSA sends “operational PRISM news and guidance to the FBI and CIA so that their analysts could task the PRISM system properly, be aware of outages and changes, and optimize their use of PRISM.”

* And, most recently, we learned that the NSA partners with the DEA to record nearly all cell phone calls in the Bahamas– but not for national security purposes. This surveillance helps “to locate ‘international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers’—traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.” In fact, a 2004 memo discusses the NSA’s integral goal in the war on drugs.

How the NSA is Transforming Law Enforcement [Nadia Kayyali/EFF]