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Frequently Asked Questions
Oversight

  1. How are the activities of the NSA/CSS regulated and who monitors them?
  2. What defines the Intelligence Role of NSA/CSS?
  3. Who is considered a U.S. Person?
  4. Are U.S. persons outside of the United States afforded protection?
  5. Couldn't NSA simply ask its allies to provide them with information about U.S. persons?
  6. How does the NSA/CSS ensure its employees are aware of and abide by the regulations?
  7. How can I find out if the government has records on me?
  8. Where can I report government fraud, waste and abuse?

1. How are the activities of the NSA/CSS regulated and who monitors them?

The U.S. Constitution, federal law, executive order, and regulations of the Executive Branch govern NSA's activities. As a Defense Agency, NSA operates under the authority of the Department of Defense. As a member of the Intelligence Community, NSA also operates under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. NSA/CSS activities are subject to strict scrutiny and oversight both from outside and from within. External bodies such as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Department of Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Justice help ensure that NSA adheres to U.S. laws and regulations that are applicable to the Agency's activities. Internally, the Office of the Inspector General conducts inspections, audits, and investigations to make certain that NSA/CSS operates with integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness while the Office of the General Counsel provides legal advice. The Office of Compliance ensures the Agency conforms to the standards, policies, and standards under which it operates. Most importantly, each NSA/CSS employee is charged with knowing, understanding, and obeying to the fullest the laws of the nation.

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2. What defines the Intelligence Role of NSA/CSS?

Executive Order 12333 (EO 12333) authorizes agencies of the intelligence community to obtain reliable intelligence information, consistent with applicable Federal law and EO 12333, with full consideration of the rights of U.S. persons. Pursuant to EO 12333, NSA is authorized to collect, process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions, and to provide signals intelligence support for the conduct of military operations. The executive order, however, prohibits the collection, retention, or dissemination of information about U.S. persons except pursuant to procedures established by the head of the agency and approved by the Attorney General.

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3. Who is considered a U.S. Person?

Federal law and executive order define a U.S. Person as:

  1. a citizen of the United States;
  2. an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
  3. 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,
  4. a corporation that is incorporated in the U.S.

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4. Are U.S. persons outside of the United States afforded protection?

Yes, the privacy rights of U.S. persons are protected regardless of their location.

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

NSA is prohibited from requesting an ally to undertake activities that NSA itself is prohibited from conducting.

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

The NSA/CSS conducts extensive training of its employees to ensure that the work force is aware of and understands the regulations governing NSA/CSS activities. The members of the NSA/CSS work force charged with foreign intelligence production receive very specific training advising 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.

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7. How can I find out if the government has records on me?

Both the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) establish procedures for individuals to seek access to government records. The FOIA is a statute that gives anyone the right to seek access to government records. Since NSA is authorized by law to collect only foreign intelligence information, we would not ordinarily expect to find intelligence information about U.S. persons. Although you may submit a FOIA request for intelligence records, because our intelligence activities are classified, we generally are unable to acknowledge whether or not we hold intelligence information on individuals. Personnel management files, however, are maintained on NSA/CSS affiliates. Typical NSA records that fall under the Privacy Act include personnel, security, training, and medical records of NSA/CSS employees, applicants, and other affiliates. These records are accessible to the person whose name or personal identifier appears on the file.

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8. Where can I report government fraud, waste and abuse?

The NSA/CSS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is the agent for individual and organizational integrity within the Agency. The Inspector General has the authority to conduct inspections, audits, investigations, special inquiries, and other reviews relating to the programs or operations of NSA/CSS. This oversight authority promotes economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability within the Agency; ensures compliance with laws and regulations; and assists in detecting and preventing fraud, waste, and mismanagement in NSA/CSS programs and operations.

If you observe or are aware of instances of fraud, waste, or abuse, we ask that you report your concern to the OIG Hotline. Phone: (301) 688-6327 Fax: (443) 479-5105

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Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: Jan 13, 2011 | Last Reviewed: Jan 13, 2011

 
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