The documents confirm beyond all doubt that the NSA can and does incidentally sweep up domestic communications while targeting foreigners, and it has the authority to retain such communications for up to five years. The NSA has to destroy communications concerning “U.S. persons,” except for cases in which the communication intercepted is deemed to contain “foreign intelligence information”; shows evidence of a crime; relates to a security vulnerability; or contains information pertaining to harm of life or property. In some cases, the NSA can incidentally grab Americans’ communications—without any specific search warrant under the broad authority it has under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—and pass them on to the FBI or other agencies.
No one should find this surveillance acceptable because it targets “foreigners.” Whatever is being done “to them” will soon find its way to us. Take the military’s use of drones to fight terrorism. Who’s clamoring for drones now? Our domestic police force.