After years of getting flak for its spying programs - including from me - it seems like the NSA is finally getting some love. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is taking the view that the information the NSA collects is "legal and effective in protecting national security."
Granted, the PCLOB is only talking about one part of the spying program, the "702 program," which allows the NSA to collect information from foreign communications.
More than 25% of NSA's terrorism reporting is based on information taken under 702, the PCLOB found. The section also allows it to collect data from telecommunications and internet providers, known as Prism, and, less frequently, data in transit "upstream" across the internet itself.
"It has played a key role in discovering and disrupting specific terrorist plots aimed at the United States and other countries," the PCLOB found in a 200-page report released in draft form late on Tuesday, endorsing a central NSA claim since Edward Snowden leaked information revealing the scope of the surveillance agency's powers.
The PCLOB does acknowledge the concern of Americans that the NSA captures domestic communications as well.
Those privacy concerns centre overwhelmingly on the rules by which the NSA and its partner agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, can search through the NSA communications data troves for Americans' email addresses and references to Americans, as well as the sheer volume of US person data "incidentally" caught in the NSA's massive data troves.
There's also some disturbing new information about how the FBI and CIA use the same information.
Additionally, the PCLOB confirmed that while the NSA purges Prism and upstream data if it determines communications involving Americans do not provide foreign intelligence, neither the FBI nor the CIA has any such requirement.
Indeed, the board found that the FBI can disseminate US person information acquired under section 702 "that reasonably appears to be foreign intelligence information" or even data deemed "necessary to understand foreign intelligence information."
Do the PCLOB findings change your mind on NSA spying programs? Are you more worried about the FBI and CIA now? Let me know in the comments.