Another shoe has dropped in the National Security Agency's covert mass surveillance program.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has provided The Guardian with a document that outlines the NSA's widespread sharing of "US persons" cellular and e-mail metadata with Israel. According to The Guardian, "US persons" include US citizens, permanent residents, and anyone located in the US at the time of data interception.
The classified document, called the "Memorandum of Understanding," shows that the NSA has been providing Israeli intelligence agencies with reams of raw intelligence data, such as transcripts, phone records, and digital network information, since 2009.
The memorandum does not place any legal limits on Israel's use of the US data. It does say that any data on US government officials must be "destroyed upon recognition" -- but, no such controls are in place for data on US citizens.
The NSA and the Obama administration have repeatedly said that the government does not "target" US citizens, but various other leaked documents and reports have suggested otherwise. Documents revealed in August showed that the NSA created a "secret backdoor" to search its massive databases for U.S. citizens' confidential phone calls and e-mail messages without a warrant.
For its part, the NSA has defended itself regarding its data sharing with Israel.
"The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations," a NSA spokesperson told The Guardian. "NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information."