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Guardian reports secret court documents allowed cases of data collection of U.S. citizens

The Guardian newspaper has posted two more classified documents, both signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, regarding the rules of the road for using intercepted information from foreign targets —  and what the NSA does to minimize the use of data inadvertently collected from U.S. citizens and residents.

One of the documents is classified "Top Secret," the other is "Secret."

The documents, which were submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and signed by current Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009, detailed the guidelines the NSA is required to follow when monitoring people outside the United States.

While the documents outline extensive steps the agencies must take to protect the privacy of Americans, they also show that the FISA court apparently permits domestic communications to be retained, even if they were acquired inadvertently, if they contain usable intelligence on criminal activity or are believed to contain information relevant to cyber security.

The Guardian story claims these exceptions contradict the claim by the President and other top officials that emails and calls from U.S. residents and citizens cannot be collected without a FISA court order.

NBC News has not verified the authenticity of the documents.

The FISA papers also reveal the procedures that must be taken to prevent surveillance on U.S. citizens through the foreign intelligence authority. Those steps include extensive checks by analysts to ensure targets are outside the U.S. and that American call records are used to help prevent U.S. citizens from being the targets of surveillance.  

But the documents show that the FISA court approved policies that allowed the NSA to keep data that could contain details of U.S. persons for as long as five years.

The Guardian wrote a similar story two days ago. This is the first time it posted the documentation.

Obama administration officials have yet to comment on the documents, but in an interview on Monday the president reiterated that the programs are transparent and that the NSA is not listening to the telephone calls or reading the emails of ordinary American citizens.