David Cameron (left) and President Obama (right)
The Obama administration is in talks with British allies to give them access to electronic data on American servers.
The British domestic security service and MI5 are hungry for the authority to issue wiretap orders on companies like Facebook or Google. Negotiations are underway to see just how much data the U.S. could give them. Officials told the Washington Post that any deal would be mutually beneficial to intelligence agencies, which has privacy advocates worried.
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“What it means is they’re going to allow a country that doesn’t require independent judicial authorization before getting a wiretap to continue that practice, which seems to be a pretty fundamental constitutional protection in the United States,” said Eric King, and visiting lecturer in surveillance law at Queen Mary University of London, the newspaper reported Thursday. “That’s being traded away.”
Any deal agreed upon between the White House and the U.K. would need Congressional approval.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters on Friday that any agreement would need to ensure “British orders do not cover U.S. persons or individuals within the U.S., do not permit bulk collection, and have due process protections that meet high standards.”
An official who spoke on condition of anonymity to USA Today told the paper that rapid advances in technology have left governments scrambling to catch up.
“These communications are happening with the speed of light, and law enforcement agencies need to keep pace with these communications,” the official said.
A draft of the negotiating document seen by the Post stipulated that records of U.S. citizens would not be disclosed if they appeared during U.K. investigations.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed in June 2013 that tens-of-millions of Americans’ electronic records and “metadata” were being swept up by the federal government. The scandal eventually resulted in Obama shutting down the controversial program in November 2015, but not before the extreme measures the government will take to glean intelligence was exposed.