Experts Say NSA Rules Leave Privacy Vulnerable

Cyber security experts are questioning whether President Barack Obama can make good on his assurance that U.S. intelligence agencies aren't spying on "ordinary folks." That promise is especially dubious, experts say, in instances where Americans are communicating with U.S. citizens living abroad and other people overseas.

"It's very clear there are enormous loopholes," said Jonathan Mayer, a cybersecurity fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, who is reverse engineering the NSA surveillance program to learn how much collection -- if taken to extremes -- is legally possible. "Their rules, combined with their capabilities, cut against the classical protections built into our legal system."

The National Security Agency and the CIA are tasked with gathering foreign -- not domestic -- intelligence. Agency rules say they must have a "reasonable, articulated suspicion" about the people they target, and are required to sift through all the data they collect and eliminate any that might have been intercepted from an innocent American, on U.S. soil or abroad.

This week the Obama Administration proposed that Congress overhaul the electronic surveillance program by having phone companies hold onto the call records as they do now.

But there remain a number of significant ambiguities that allow Americans' data to be swept up, saved and analyzed, according to a series of disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks source Pvt. Chelsea (previously known as Bradley) Manning and the federal government itself:

- Analysts need to be just "51 percent confident" that someone is not in the U.S., based on phone numbers, Internet Protocol addresses and email addresses, before they can target the person.

- The NSA is allowed to store encrypted communications, domestic or foreign, at least until analysts can decrypt it to find out whether it contains information relating to national security. With...

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