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24 February 2000

United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

Recently, many allegations have surfaced about activities conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). We anticipate a continuation, if not an increase, in these allegations for the foreseeable future. In fact, a 27 February 2000 airing of a CBS "60 Minutes" newsmagazine report may feature adverse information about the National Security Agency (NSA). We are providing the attached documents on the oversight of NSA and some answers to frequently asked questions in an effort to answer some of your questions concerning the allegations.

We want to assure you that NSA's activities are conducted in accordance with the highest constitutional, legal, and ethical standards, and in compliance with statutes and regulations designed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. persons. Agency employees are trained to comply with these standards, and an extensive oversight system that includes internal and external reviews exists to ensure compliance.

As is the long-standing policy within the United States Intelligence Community, we must refrain from commenting on actual or alleged intelligence activities; therefore, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of specific operations. However, we can tell you that NSA operates in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations in protecting the privacy rights of U.S. persons.

We invite you to review the NSA web site (http://www.nsa.gov) for additional information and answers to other frequently asked questions.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for FY00 required the Director of NSA to submit a report to Congress on the legal standards for electronic surveillance. If you would like a copy of the report, or if you have any other questions, please contact Karen Clark, in my office, of 301-688-7246.

Encl: a/s


The NSA is a civilian agency in the Department of Defense and is charged with two national missions: providing 1) foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) information to U.S. Government policymakers and warfighters, and 2) information systems security (INFOSEC) products and services for the Department of Defense.

NSA, as part of the nation's Intelligence Community, intercepts and analyzes foreign adversaries' communications signals, many of which are guarded by codes and other complex countermeasures. INFOSEC provides leadership, products, technical advice, and services to protect classified and unclassified national security systems against exploitation through interception, unauthorized access, or related technical intelligence threats. INFOSEC support ranges from the highest level of government to the individual warfighter in the field. NSA provides solutions, products, and services, and conducts defensive information assurance for information infrastructure critical to U.S. national security interests.

NSA operates in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations in protecting the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of U.S. persons. Since the 1970's, NSA's activities have been strictly controlled by written procedures approved by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense, and vetted with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The Fourth Amendment transcends whatever technology happens to be involved in a particular form of electronic surveillance.

Effective oversight of NSA's activities is conducted within the Executive Branch by the President's Intelligence Oversight Board and by Department of Justice and Department of Defense oversight organizations. In addition, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence conduct oversight of NSA's activities. During consideration of this year's Intelligence Authorization Act, a Chairman of one of the intelligence oversight committees expressed confidence that NSA is scrupulously adhering to the law and reiterated his committee's role in conducting effective oversight.

Frequently Asked Questions:
SIGINT & Intelligence Oversight

"We are committed to serving the American public while
upholding the highest legal and ethical standards"

Does the NSA/CSS unconstitutionally spy on Americans?

No, we do not unconstitutionally "spy on" or target Americans. The NSA/CSS performs SIGINT operations against foreign powers or agents of foreign powers. We strictly follow laws and regulations designed to preserve every American's privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. persons from unreasonable searches and seizures by by the U.S. Government or any person or agency acting on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Who is considered a U.S. Person?

Federal law and executive order define a U.S. Person as: (a) a citizen of the United States; (b) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence; (c) an unincorporated association with a substantial number of members who are citizens of the U.S. or are aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence; or, (d) a corporation that is incorporated in the U.S.

Couldn't the Agency simply ask its allies to provide them with information about U.S. persons?

We have been prohibited by executive order since 1978 from having any person or government agency, whether foreign or U.S., conduct any activity on our behalf that we are prohibited from conducting ourselves. Therefore, NSA/CSS does not ask its allies to conduct such activities on its behalf nor does NSA/CSS do so on behalf of its allies.

What defines your intelligence role?

Executive Order 12333 (EO 12333) authorizes agencies of the intelligence community to produce foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence consistent with applicable U.S. law and with full consideration of the rights of United States persons. The Order defines "foreign intelligence" and "counterintelligence" as follows: Foreign intelligence means information relating to the capabilities, intentions, and activities of foreign powers, organizations or persons. Counterintelligence means information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons, or international terrorist activities.

I think you collected information about me -- how can I find out?

The Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act establish procedures for individuals to seek access to Agency records. To submit a request, you can utilize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process by visiting our web page or by writing to NSA/CSS at:

For more information about the NSA/CSS, contact the Public and Media Affairs Office on (301)688-6198, or visit our website at http://www.nsa.gov

oversight chart

How are the activities of the NSA/CSS regulated? Who monitors whether you follow the regulations?

The U.S. Constitution, federal law, executive order and Executive Branch and Department of Defense regulations, govern our activities. They are designed to balance the government's need for foreign intelligence information and individual privacy rights in a reasonable way. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) ensure adherence by the Agency to laws and regulations, especially with regard to protection of U.S. citizens' right to privacy (including military and civilian Agency employees -- who are all U.S. citizens). In addition, an effective oversight process involving the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches is in place to ensure that the NSA/CSS complies with the regulations. At the very top, the President's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) and the Congressional Oversight Committees (both Senate and House of Representatives) keep fully informed of our intelligence activities. In addition to those entities, the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) also provide oversight.

How does the NSA/CSS ensure that its employees are aware of and abide by the regulations?

The NSA/CSS conducts extensive training of its employees to ensure that the workforce is aware of and understands the regulations governing the NSA/CSS activities. The portion of the NSA/CSS workforce charged with foreign intelligence production receives very specific training reminding them of their responsibility to protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Access to intelligence information is contingent upon the completion of such training sessions. To ensure that everyone at the NSA/CSS remains sensitive to such responsibilities, each employee must read the laws and regulations and sign that they have read and will abide by them each and every year.

Does NSA/CSS have internal oversight?

NSA/CSS has its own internal oversight process within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG has the authority to conduct inspections, audits and investigations ensure that NSA/CSS operates with integrity, efficiency and effectiveness. The OIG is authorized access to all information, records, reports, documents, electronic systems/material personnel and physical areas at NSA/CSS HQ and at all field sites.

The OIG has several areas of responsibility. With regard to oversight, the OIG is responsible for overseeing compliance with Executive Order 12333 and related implementing directives and regulations to ensure the lawful execution of intelligence operations. Results of their oversight efforts are reported to the Department of Defense and the President's IOB.

In addition, the Deputy Director, NSA, chairs an NSA Intelligence Oversight Board consisting of the Deputy Director, the Inspector General, and the General Counsel. The Board conducts oversight reviews of NSA activities. The NSA General Counsel as well as an office within the Directorate of Operations conduct oversight activities as well.

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