NSA Director May Also Have Misled Congress About Data Collection

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NSA PRISM

The Director of the National Security Agency may have also misled Congress about the NSA's phone and Internet surveillance programs that were revealed this week.

In March of 2012, Keith Alexander, the NSA Director, testified at a House hearing on surveillance issues and, according to Forbes, denied at least 14 times that the agency engaged in intercepting the phone and Internet records of Americans. Earlier this week, Breitbart News uncovered testimony from another administration official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in which Clapper denied that the NSA collected "any type of data" on Americans. 

Like Clapper's, Alexander's testimony came before this week's revelations about the agency's PRISM program and the court orders the federal government has used to force Verizon to turn over the domestic and international phone records of all of its customers. 

When Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Alexander in 2012 about a Wired magazine article in which former NSA officials said the agency was collecting the phone and Internet records of Americans, Alexander said on multiple occasions his agency had "no capacity to do so with emails in the United States." 

He said the agency also did not have the technical "ability" or the "technical insights" to undertake such surveillance measures. Alexander said the agency would have to go to service providers in order to collect Internet data and the agency did not have a way to intercept the data from Americans in the United States. He also denied the agency routinely intercepted the emails of Americans. As the transcript below shows, Alexander also denied the NSA intercepted all types of data:

Rep. Johnson: Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?

Director Alexander: No.

Rep. Johnson: Google searches?

Director Alexander: No.

Rep. Johnson: Text messages?

Director Alexander: No.

Rep. Johnson: Amazon.com orders?

Director Alexander: No.

Rep. Johnson: Bank records?

Director Alexander: No.

Rep. Johnson: What judicial consent is required for NSA to intercept communications and information involving American citizens?

Director Alexander: Within the United States, that would be the FBI lead. If it were a foreign actor in the United States, the FBI would still have to lead. It could work that with NSA or other intelligence agencies as authorized. But to conduct that kind of collection in the United States it would have to go through a court order, and the court would have to authorize it. We’re not authorized to do it, nor do we do it.

Alexander's testimony seems to contradict details about the PRISM program related in the Washington Post, which claimed the agency has direct access to the servers of leading American technology companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft to extract data and trace the online movements of Americans in real time. 


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