NSA can retain encrypted communications of Americans possibly indefinitely

The US National Security Agency (NSA) can retain communications of US citizens or residents potentially indefinitely if those communications are encrypted, according to a newly leaked secret government document.

The document describes the procedures used by the NSA to minimize data collection from US persons and is one of two documents published Thursday by UK-based newspaper The Guardian. The documents date from July 2009, were signed by US Attorney General Eric Holder and were approved by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the newspaper reported.

The documents state that the NSA is not allowed to intentionally target persons known to be located in the US, but describe several provisions under which the agency is allowed to retain, or share with other US agencies, communications of US persons that were acquired inadvertently. These include cases when the data is likely to contain foreign intelligence, information on criminal activity or is encrypted.

According to the document describing data collection minimisation procedures, foreign communications between a US person and a party located outside of the US that was collected during data acquisitions authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) can be retained for cryptanalytic, traffic analysis, or signal exploitation purposes.

The retention of such communications is permitted for a period sufficient to allow a thorough exploitation and to permit access to data reasonably believed to be or become relevant to current or future foreign intelligence requirements — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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