National Security Agency: Giving Out U.S. Names
Newsweek | May 2, 2005 issue
By Mark Hosenball
The National Security Agency is not supposed to target Americans; when a U.S. citizen's name comes up in an NSA "intercept," the agency routinely minimizes dissemination of the info by masking the name before it distributes the report to other U.S. agencies.
But it's now clear the agency disseminates thousands of U.S. names. U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton told a Senate confirmation hearing he had requested that U.S. names be unmasked from NSA intercepts on a handful of occasions; the State Department said he had made 10 such requests since 2001, and that the department as a whole had made 400 similar requests over the same period. But evidence is emerging that NSA regularly supplies uncensored intercepts, including named Americans, to other agencies far more often than even many top intel officials knew.
According to information obtained by NEWSWEEK, since January 2004 NSA received—and fulfilled—between 3,000 and 3, 500 requests from other agencies to supply the names of U.S. citizens and officials (and citizens of other countries that help NSA eavesdrop around the world, including Britain, Canada and Australia) that initially were deleted from raw intercept reports.
Sources say the number of names disclosed by NSA to other agencies during this period is more than 10,000. About one third of such disclosures were made to officials at the policymaking level; most of the rest were disclosed to other intel agencies and, perhaps surprisingly, only a small proportion to law-enforcement agencies. Civil libertarians expressed dismay at the numbers.
An official familiar with NSA procedures insisted the agency maintains careful logs of all requests for U.S. names and doles out such info only after agency officials are satisfied "that the requester needs the information [and that it's] necessary to understand the foreign intelligence or assess its importance."