What's a 'violation'?
This slide is used in a training course for NSA intelligence collectors and analysts. It tells the trainees what to do if they collect communications "to, from or about" a U.S. citizen, green card holder or company. The slide's revision date is nearly one month after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled on Oct. 3, 2011 that the NSA's handling of some "U.S. Persons" data was unlawful. The highlighted portion of the slide is notable because it shows that "incidentally" acquired U.S. communications, which may account for the highest volume of American content collected, are not purged from NSA databases. Analysts do not need to report "incidental" collection to the NSA Inspector General because it is not deemed a violation of rules. They may use the data routinely in "minimized" form, with identities masked, and with supervisory permission they may unmask the identities of U.S. persons in reports if the "customer set" requires them.
GRAPHIC: Barton Gellman and Matt DeLong - The Washington Post. Published Aug. 15, 2013.