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Intelligence Officials Defend Surveillance Programs as Congress Considers Reforms

NSA chief says he'd rather “take the beatings” from the public “than to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked.”

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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October 31, 2013 - 12:10 am
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WASHINGTON – During a grilling by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday,  top spy chiefs defended their intelligence-gathering activities in the wake of allegations that the United States collected telephone and email records from European citizens.

National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander said the NSA would prefer to “take the beatings” from the public and in the media “than to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked.”

He vigorously defended the agency’s intelligence programs, saying they have helped save lives “not only here, but in Europe, and around the world.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asserted there is no other country in the world that has the magnitude of oversight over its intelligence apparatus as the U.S. does.

“We operate within a robust framework of strict rules and rigorous oversight involving all three branches of the government,” he said.

Clapper said the manner in which the work of the intelligence agencies has been characterized in recent months has often been “incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading.”

“I believe that most Americans realize the intelligence community exists to collect the vital intelligence that helps protect our nation from foreign threats. We focus on uncovering the secret plans and intentions of our foreign adversaries, as we’ve been charged to do,” he said. “But what we do not do is spy unlawfully on Americans, or for that matter, spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country. We only spy for valid foreign intelligence purposes as authorized by law, with multiple layers of oversight to ensure we don’t abuse our authorities.”

Clapper admitted there have been mistakes, but these are caused by “human error or technical problems.”

“Whenever we’ve found mistakes, we’ve reported, addressed and corrected them,” he added.

The hearing follows a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone. Citing documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, some European newspapers have also reported the U.S. carried out surveillance on French and Spanish citizens.

Last week, the former director of France’s domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, stated in an interview to French newspaper Le Figaro that “there is no reason to be surprised” as allies have been spying on each other for a long time.

“The French intelligence services know full well that all countries, whether or not they are allies in the fight against terrorism, spy on each other all the time,” Squarcini said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) made reference to the interview, asking Clapper whether those remarks were consistent with what he knew as the director of intelligence operations.

“Absolutely,” Clapper replied. “It’s invaluable to us to know where countries are coming from, what their policies are, how that would impact us across a whole range of issues, so – and it isn’t just leaders themselves. It’s what goes on around them and the policies that they convey to their governments.”

Both he and Alexander said that allies conducting espionage against the U.S. and its leaders was just “a basic tenet” of intelligence operations.

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All Comments   (15)
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50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...They are also evaluating congressional reporting, so that all members of Congress, not just those on committees with jurisdictions, can view the classified reports about the programs..."

Well, there's a leak that you can drive an 18-wheeler through.
Does the name "Leaky" Leahy mean anything to you?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
We won WWII by our skilled intelligence gathering, we defeated the Communist assaults on freedom because we knew all their sins.
we knew Saddam's weakness
Then for some reason we bend over to support the enemies to our way of life and tell them every thing.
We have politicians that have their own intelligence gathering sources in office obviously they retain their office for their "Deal" making abilities.
DEA, Homeland Security, Military intelligence, CIA, the State Department Peace Corps, do you really think that the space station is not watching?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wonder if this Alexander fellow always speaks in such an emotionally overwrought hyperbolic manner. Very bad sign for the guy in charge of an out-of-control agency. I think he's mostly bemoaning the potential loss of his budget and perks.

The NSA's approach to intelligence gathering is frankly not intelligent.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which nation is Alexander trying to protect? Because it certainly isn't the nation whose citizens have the freedom and privacy of their person and effects.

*Also, my husband just happily volunteered to give him that beating he was looking for.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, something like 60 million Spanish phone calls were logged in one month. Assuming a one percent false positive hit rate requiring further investigation of possible telephonic leads, that's 600 hundred thousand false positives, for one country. So, how many CIA agents are working Spain following up those false positives to catch a terrorist the old fashion way with shoe leather hitting the pavement? Ten? Twenty? Or do you just tweak your screening protocols and disappear all those false positives and wait for the Russians to snitch on a Chechen residing in Boston? Garbage in garbage out.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, Mr. Anderson, you'd rather take a beating than do what WE, the people, want, huh?

OK tough guy, give me your address...

I'll be there tonight to COLLECT on our little agreement, OK?
What time, Mr. Anderson, please tell me when its most convenient for you.
I'm ready on a moments notice, I'm just waiting for you, see.

Youre tough talk is nothing but bulls*it General, and you know it.

Youre nothing but an effing Coward.

And a Traitor.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the few days following 9/11 newspapers reported heart wrenching conversations between people on the planes and their loved ones at home.

How did the newspapers know verbatim conversations? Possibly a reporter talked to some of the people and they told them. And then what? The newspaper sent the story of other newspapers?

Possible indeed, but not likely. After all we knew of a program called Echelon that was recording cell phone calls. And it could not have only kicked in because the incident was a terrorist incident. It had to be in operation before that.

I hate to say this, but one way a bureaucracy protects us from terrorist attacks is to call a terrorist attack by a different name. Like workplace violence.

In the month of January of this year the NSA monitored a staggering 125 billion phone calls - more than 3 billion of them in the United States.

This is an immigration issue.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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