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5 Dec, 2013 16:25

NSA considered ‘unilateral spying’ on Australia, Canada, NZ citizens

NSA considered ‘unilateral spying’ on Australia, Canada, NZ citizens

The NSA was prepared to secretly collect data on citizens of Australia, Canada and New Zealand – without the knowledge or consent of their governments, and despite the ‘Five Eyes’ joint spying program with those countries, a Snowden leak reveals.

The draft directive, classified as “NF” for No Foreign, reveals how the US intelligence agency floated the possibility of "unilaterally" snooping on citizens of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, members of the so-called "Five Eyes" part of the UK-US partnership agreement on global snooping.

"Under certain circumstances, it may be advisable and allowable to target second-party persons and second-party communications systems unilaterally when it is in the best interests of the US and necessary for US national security,” says the 2005 directive, titled Collection, Processing and Dissemination of Allied Communications.

“Such targeting must be performed exclusively within the direction, procedures and decision processes outlined in this directive."

The latest revelation comes as The Guardian publishes yet another document leaked to the British newspaper by NSA former contractor Edward Snowden.

The UK-US data-collecting alliance allowed the five members (Australia, Canada, the US, the UK and New Zealand – collectively referred to as “Five Eyes”) to share intelligence and carry out surveillance operations without worrying that member states were spying on each other.

However, it seems that some member states may have been more open to the possibility of sharing metadata on each other’s citizens than some countries in the alliance.

Guardian Australia on Monday revealed that the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD), which is now the Australian Signals Directorate, had offered to share citizens’ personal data in a 2009 meeting. This demonstrated different attitudes between the Five Eye partners when it came to protecting the privacy of citizens.

The Canadians, for example, demanded that any data that revealed private information about its citizens was first "minimized.”

However, despite the objections to any intrusions into the privacy of the citizens, the United States seemed initially intent on ignoring such requests.

The leaked draft directive goes on to state that the US could conduct the targeting without the knowledge of Australian, Canadian or New Zealand authorities, and even if their government officials had rejected a "collaboration proposal" for the operation.

"When sharing the planned targeting information with a second party would be contrary to US interests, or when the second party declines a collaboration proposal, the proposed targeting must be presented to the signals intelligence director for approval with justification for the criticality of the proposed collection," said the document, released by the Guardian.

The document does not reveal how the NSA would select Australian targets for unilateral surveillance, nor to what ends. However, the NSA’s surveillance procedures are extensive and open the door to the collection of internet, telephone and social media information.

Meanwhile, the draft directive appears to show that the original 1946 UK-US agreement, previously specified for "foreign intelligence" operations, has acquired new dimensions.

"The agreement has evolved to include a common understanding that both governments will not target each other's citizens/persons. However, when it is in the best interest of each nation, each reserved the right to conduct unilateral Comint [communications intelligence] action against each other's citizens/persons," it states.

However, later changes to the document suggest that Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be prepared to cooperate with the US to target their citizens.

“There are circumstances when targeting of second party persons and communications systems, with the full knowledge and co-operation of one or more second parties, is allowed when it is in the best interests of both nations,” the document says. “This targeting will conform to guidelines set forth in this directive.”

The directive pointed to targets believed to be affiliated with “weapons proliferation, terrorism, drug trafficking or organized crime activities".