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5148383_s featureAn unprecedented MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) allowing Israel free access to raw data collected by the NSA, including all U.S. civilian communications, was secretly signed in March 2009 between the NSA and the Israeli intelligence gathering unit 8200, as was revealed earlier this year.

A summary of the MOU was published in the British Guardian, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The agreement gives Israel free access to all of the information gathered by the NSA, with no names or details removed – even those which may involve U.S. citizens. The signing was authorized by President Barack Obama, and the Israeli signatory was the 8200 commander, whose identity was kept secret for security reason.

The terms and activities mentioned in the MOU are a testament to the depth of the cooperation between the Israeli and American intelligence community, despite claims by a top NSA official that “Israel is spying on the U.S.”

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

These are the main points of the agreement:

  • Israel was free to use the information as it saw fit, with no legal limitations posed by the U.S.
  • The terms protect U.S. citizens caught in the spying program.
  • Israel may keep the information shared by the NSA for one year.
  • Israel must immediately report the identities and activities of specific persons who pop up in the raw data.
  • Israel must immediately destroy any communications connected to the U.S. government: White House, Congress, Senate, the judicial system (including the High Court). In any case, the exact circumstances in which the NSA is authorized to collect this information are not mentioned.
  • The NSA reserves the right to review, from time to time, the raw intel shared with Israel.
  • Israel may share NSA intel with “foreign elements”, but only after receiving written NSA authorization and only if the identities of any U.S. citizens mentioned will remain secret.

Aside from these terms, it should be mentioned the according to U.S. laws the NSA may only spy on American citizens while they’re on American soil. Since most of the global internet traffic, however, passes through the U.S., the agency can effectively spy on non-Americans as well.

The intelligence relations between Israel and the U.S. fluctuated over the years, along with the relations between their respective governments. The U.S. considers these relations extremely important, however. In an 2008 document also published by the Guardian an NSA top official said: “We know Israel is spying on the U.S., but it is is an extraordinary SIGINT partner. We are aware, however, that Israel considers us a central intelligence gathering target. The want to find out as much as possible about our Middle East policies.”