US Government Angry Over Internet Spying Leaks
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has denounced leaks to The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers this week which revealed that his agency is spying on e-mails and other internet traffic obtained from nine major companies.
In a statement on Thursday, Clapper confirmed the surveillance was taking place but accused the newspapers of making unspecified errors in their reporting.
“The articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act... a provision that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the United States,” he said.
Clapper said the legislation could not be used to “intentionally” target any US citizen or anyone located within the US.
“Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons,” his statement said.
“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,” Clapper said. “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”
According to a document available on The Washington Post website, the spying programme – known as PRISM – collects “a wide range of data” from nine companies, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Skype and YouTube.
The newspaper reported that PRISM was launched “from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority. Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection.”
The Post said the surveillance program was focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through US servers even when sent from one overseas location to another.
The newspaper quoted spokespersons for several of the nine companies as saying they had no knowledge of the program, did not allow direct government access to their servers and responded only to targeted requests for information.
According to information obtained by The Post, the National Security Agency “increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material. The program accounts for nearly one in seven intelligence reports, the paper said.