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)
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid