News / USA

US Spy Chief Slams Leaks on Surveillance Program

James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence (File)
James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence (File)
The top U.S. spy chief has slammed the leak of top-secret documents that have shed light on how the government collects information on people's telephone records and Internet use.

In a statement late Thursday, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, defended the programs as crucial to U.S. anti-terror activities, and warned their exposure threatens national security.

"The unauthorized disclosure of a top-secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation," said Clapper.

Clapper was referring to a report in The Guardian, which published a secret court order demanding communications company Verizon to hand over to the National Security Agency millions of phone records of Americans on an "ongoing, daily basis."

Related - US Defends Secretly Collecting Phone Records

Later, The Guardian, along with The Washington Post, reported on a separate classified program that allegedly provides the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with direct access to the servers of nine major U.S. Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Apple.

Several of the companies later released statements saying they have not given the government direct access to their servers.

Reports 'contain numerous inaccuracies'

Clapper's statement said the media reports "contain numerous inaccuracies." Though he did not provide specifics to back up that claim, he did offer new information on the programs, he says, in order to correct the "misleading impression" of the articles, which Clapper said omit "key information."

"The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone's phone calls," said Clapper, referring to the phone surveillance initiative. "The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber. The only type of information acquired under the Court's order is telephony metadata, such as telephone numbers dialed and length of calls."

He also insisted the Internet monitoring program, allegedly code-named "PRISM," cannot be used to intentionally target U.S. citizens or those living in the United States. He said it involves extensive procedures to ensure that information collected "incidentally" on U.S. persons is protected.

"Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats," said Clapper.

Government overreacting to terrorism?

The programs have drawn severe criticism from some lawmakers and civil liberty groups that object to the government's broad surveillance powers granted by Congress after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"This program is part of an overreaction to terrorism. It won't actually effectively find terrorism, but ultimately we will see uses that are quite detrimental to our fourth amendment rights and our privacy, the privacy of all of us -- all law-abiding American citizens," said Jim Harper, the Cato Institute's information policy studies director.

In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said "the program could hardly be more alarming." He said "innocent people" had been put under constant government surveillance.

Could prompt debate in Congress

"When law-abiding Americans make phone calls, who they call, when they call and where they call from is private information," said Ron Wyden, a Democratic Senator from the western state of Oregon, "As a result of the disclosures that came to light today, we're going to have a real debate in the Congress and the country that's long overdue."

Officials say the surveillance powers fall under the Patriot Act, which was signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2001. President Barack Obama has extended key provisions of the act, as has Congress.

Related - Legislators Query Holder on NSA Phone Records

Brennan Center for Justice program co-director Elizabeth Goitein told said the government's interpretation of the law is shocking.

"It is stunning, but I should say that it is not surprising because we have known for years that the government has a secret interpretation of the so-called business record provision of the Patriot Act.  And, we have known this because senators who have access to classified information on the intelligence committees have been saying this," she said.

The Obama administration had already been under fire recently after it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department secretly obtained phone records from the Associated Press news agency in connection with a leak investigation.

Administration officials have hinted that there will also be an investigation into the most recent leaks.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ciaran Mulcahy from: Dublin, Ireland
June 08, 2013 5:15 PM
Reprehensible though 'some' of the possible uses of government-collected data might, and 'can' be, the fact remains, that 'all' data 'must' be collected, for nobody can no before-hand, how useful
it may be, to the defence of our way of life.

But there must be ways of preventing freely-elected governments from using such information to prevent non-reasonable use of 'top-secret' classifications, in order to obfuscate ballotters in their task of choosing their political representatives.


by: Tom
June 07, 2013 12:04 PM
Mr Clapper the loyalty and dedication of all agents is what counts.
Without them the volumes of records are not going to apprehend those involved in nefarious activities. Highlighting concerns in the public domain is not "sharp".


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
June 07, 2013 11:44 AM
Another incredible loss of program security; once again the terrorists get a heads up! These leaks/security program failures are just continuing to occur at an alarming rate; something is seriously wrong with the way these programs are being administered. Wikki leaks, technical hacker leaks on advanced systems, UAV leaks, now these leaks, it is beyond comprehension how so many massive security failures continue to occur. These security failures endanger all Western allies. One can only conclude, that these cathastrophic leaks must be deliberate, or there has been a total collapse of security systems. I hope the entire system and programs get fixed; some very serious introspection is in order, and new people need to be in charge/command of the systems.......

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid