The things they want you to know
The Short Version
The Central Intelligence Agency released a new set of rules and guidelines yesterday that detail exactly what kinds of information they are allowed to collect on American citizens and how long they are allowed to keep it. This is the first time the agency has published the full set of rules without redactions. The rules have been updated for contemporary digital information sources.
A Little More Detail
We all want to know when the CIA is gathering information on us, don’t we? In fact, the agency is typically focused on foreign interests rather than domestic. Domestic issues are the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, there are instances, such as when a US citizen might be responsible for passing protected or top secret information to a foreign source, when the CIA is allowed to collect data and analyze that data over a period of time.
The whole issue of what the CIA collects and why came to a head back in 2013 when Edward Snowden leaked information showing that the National Security Administration had been collecting and storing communications data on Americans without their knowledge or permission. That upset a lot of people and as a result, Congress passed a resolution requiring the intelligence agencies to develop new rules within two years.
What was released yesterday was the CIA’s response to that requirement and the changes are significant. The last time the rules were updated was 1982, long before the Internet or cell phones or Facebook gave us ways of communicating internationally in real time. One of the big issues is how long the agency can hold on to information for analysis and with whom that information can be shared, something that is an especially sensitive issue for civil rights advocates.
Unlike the 1982 rules, which were released with heavy redactions, the new rules were published in whole and are completely open to the world. A summary of the rules can be found here while the full detail of all the rules can found here.
What All Is Covered
We should probably note first that these rules can be changed at any time for pretty much any reason and that the public does not have to be notified of those changes. Also, the changes do not cover covert operations or special assignments authorized by the Department of Justice or the Attorney General. That being said, here are some of the major topics covered under the new rules:
- Collection of information, including techniques and sorting
- Handling of unevaluated information
- Retention of information concerning US persons
- Participation in organizations in the US
- Compliance and oversight
- Lots and lots of exceptions
Of course, the incoming administration could change, adjust, or eliminate any of these rules, but doing so would largely be seen as undermining the public’s faith in the agency.