Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information from individuals “concerning” all but four countries on Earth, according to top-secret documents.
The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well.
The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency, among others.