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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More