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US lawyers group questions the targeting of law firm by spy agency

The NSA does not rely on foreign partners to circumvent US law, the agency contends

Article comments

Reported interceptions by an Australian spy agency of a U.S. law firm's communications with overseas clients violates long-standing legal protections, the American Bar Association charges.

The ABA, in a Thursday letter to National Security Agency leaders, said it is concerned about a recent New York Times report saying the Australian Signals Directorate had intercepted communications between a U.S. law firm and its client, the government of Indonesia.

The Australian spy agency offered to share the information with the NSA, according to the Times story.

"The attorney-client privilege is a bedrock principle of our free society," ABA President James Silkenat wrote. "The interception and sharing of attorney-client privileged communications by government agencies -- or any third party -- raises concerns, including chilling the full and frank discussion between lawyer and client that is essential for effective legal representation."

Silkenat asked the NSA to explain its policies designed to protect attorney-client privilege. "We know that NSA, as a federal agency committed to the rule of law, recognizes the attorney-client privilege," he wrote.

An NSA spokeswoman didn't have an immediate comment on the ABA letter, but she disputed reports that the NSA has used foreign spy partners to collect information that it cannot.

"Any allegation that NSA relies on foreign partners to circumvent U.S. law is absolutely false," she said by email. "The National Security Agency does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself."

The NSA works with several partners, but the information collected must be "in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with U.S. attorney general-approved procedures to protect privacy rights," she added.

Attorney-client communications do not get special protections from NSA surveillance, the New York Times article noted.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is


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gezzerx said: The question should be why arnt Politicians Judges amp Bureaucrats being prosecuted UNITED STATES CODETITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDUREPART I - CRIMESCHAPTER 13 - CIVIL RIGHTS 241 Conspiracy against rightsIf two or more persons conspire to injure oppress threaten or intimidate any inhabitant of any State Territory or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States or because of his having so exercised the same or If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured - They shall be fined not more than 10000 or imprisoned not more than ten years or both and if death results they shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for life 242 Deprivation of rights under color of lawWhoever under color of any law statute ordinance regulation or custom willfully subjects any inhabitant of any State Territory or District to the deprivation of any rights privileges or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States or to different punishments pains or penalties on account of such inhabitant being an alien or by reason of his color or race than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens shall be fined not more than 1000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both and if bodily injury results shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years or both and if death results shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for lifehttpjustificationcrtaboutcrm242finphpFor the purpose of Section 242 acts under color of law include acts not only done by federal state or local officials within the their lawful authority but also acts done beyond the bounds of that officials lawful authority if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of hisher official duties Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers prisons guards and other law enforcement officials as well as judges care providers in public health facilities and others who are acting as public officials It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race color religion sex handicap familial status or national origin of the victimDisclaimer Be advised it is possible that this communication is being monitored by the National Security Agency or GCHQ I neither condone or support any such policy by any Government authority that does not comply as stipulated by the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution

1Citizen said: The NSA and truth are mutually exclusive

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