(AP) – A senior administration official is stressing the legality and court-approved limits on the reported existence of a program used by the National Security Administration and the FBI to scour the nation’s main Internet companies.
The Washington Post and the British newspaper “The Guardian” reported Thursday that a program used by the two agencies can extract audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person’s movements and contacts. It’s not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans.
The administration official said the program involves “extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted.”
Disclosure of the program came a day after a leaked document showed the NSA received court approval to conduct surveillance of hundreds of millions of calls.
Lawmakers are split on the need and extent of the security programs. Some say the effort infringes on privacy. Others say the efforts have prevented terror attacks and saved lives.
The director of national intelligence is trying to set the record straight on the situation now.
James Clapper says the disclosure of an Internet surveillance program is “reprehensible” and a document leak about a phone records program could cause long-lasting and irreversible harm to the nation’s ability to respond to threats.
Clapper says articles about the programs contained inaccuracies and omitted key information. He’s declassifying some details about the authority used in the phone records program because he says Americans must know the program’s limits.
Those details include that a special court reviews the program every 90 days. He says the court prohibits the government from indiscriminately sifting through phone data and queries are only allowed when facts support reasonable suspicion.