US intelligence chief defends surveillance programs

The collection of communications does not target U.S. persons, he said.

By , IDG News Service |  Security

The U.S. government said late Thursday that it is authorized to collect intelligence information of non-U.S. persons located outside the country, in the wake of news reports on the government's surveillance programs.

The two newspaper reports refer to the collection of communications under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is designed "to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States," said James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in a statement.

The section cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the country, he added. There are court approved procedures to minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons, Clapper said.

The U.S. National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have real-time access to servers of Internet services companies like Google and Facebook to collect content for surveillance, the Washington Post and the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Stating that the information collected under the program is used to protect the U.S. from a variety of threats, Clapper criticized the unauthorized disclosure about the program as "reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans."

The Guardian had earlier also published the copy of a secret April 25 order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, D.C., which required Verizon to produce call records or "telephony metadata" on an ongoing daily basis until expiry of the authorization on July 19.

The metadata included communications routing information such as session-identifying information, trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call, according to the document. The metadata collected did not, however, include the content of communications, or the name, address, and financial information of the customer.

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