A new report claims that a secret deal struck between the U.S. and Great Britain in 2007 has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) analyze the phone, e-mail,and Internet browsing records of all British citizens, included those not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The report, published Wednesday in the British newspaper The Guardian, says that the deal was approved by the UK Liason Office, which is operated by Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the NSA. The paper cited documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as the source of the report.
The report claims that under the terms of the 2007 agreement, the NSA was allowed to analyze and retain the cell phone and fax numbers, emails, and IP addresses of any British citizen. Previously, such data had been removed from NSA databases and only landline numbers could be retained.
The NSA reportedly used the newly accessible data to conduct so-called "pattern of life" analyses, in which the agency can examine the communications of anyone up to three "hops" away from a person of interest, or, in layman's terms, any friend of a friend of a friend of a suspected person. The Guardian does also report that the NSA was barred from monitoring the content of any communications from a targeted UK citizen without first getting a warrant.
Great Britain is the fourth Western European U.S. ally whose citizens have reportedly been spied on by the NSA. Earlier this year, France, Germany, and Spain all summoned their respective American ambassador to explain reports that the NSA had spied on the communications of citizens and elected officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.