Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 17th 2013 Contents A38
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, June 17, 2013
WASHINGTON---Current and former top US offi-
cials on Sunday defended the government's col-
lection of phone and Internet data following new
revelations about the secret surveillance programs,
saying the operations were essential in disrupting
terrorist plots and did not infringe on Americans'
In interviews on Sunday talk shows, guests ranging
from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough
to former Vice President Dick Cheney and former
CIA and National Security Agency head Michael
Hayden said the government's reliance on data col-
lection from both Americans and foreign nationals
was constitutional and carefully overseen by executive,
legislative and court authorities.
All three branches of government, using "aggressive
internal checks inside the administration, from inspec-
tors general and routine audits, are overseeing how
we do these programmes," McDonough said.
He added, "I think that the American people can
feel confident that we have those three branches
The latest reassurances came as a new Washington
Post report Sunday described the massive intertwined
structure of four major data collection programs that
have been set up by the government since the 9/11
The Post report follows earlier stories based on
documents provided by NSA contractor Edward
Snowden. Two secret programmes, the Post reported
in its new disclosures, are aimed at phone and Internet
metadata, while two more target contents of phone
and Internet communications.
Metadata includes logs and timing of phone calls
and lists of Internet communications, but does not
include the actual contents of communications. Even
without knowing those contents, intelligence officials
can learn much from metadata, including likely loca-
tions and patterns of behaviour.
A previously reported surveillance program aimed
at the phone logs and location information of millions
of Americans is called Mainway, the Post reported.
A second programme targeting the Internet contact
logs and location information of foreign users is
A third programme, which intercepts telephone
calls and routes their contents to government listeners,
is called Nucleon.
A fourth programme, Prism, exposed recently by
Snowden, forces major Internet firms to turn over
the detailed contents of Internet communications.
Prism is aimed at foreign users but sometimes also
sweeps up the content of Americans' emails and
other Internet communications, officials have
"The metadata story does touch upon Americans
in a massive way with phone records but not the
content. The Prism story is about foreigners and it
is about content," Hayden said told NBC's "Meet the
Rep Mike Rogers, who heads the House Intelligence
Committee, said that any phone metadata from
Americans swept up in the surveillance is held under
careful safeguards, kept in a "lockbox" that can only
be accessed if it becomes relevant to terror inves-
tigations. US officials also said Saturday that gathered
data is destroyed every five years.
"This is a lock box with only phone numbers, no
names, no addresses in it, we've used it sparingly,"
Rogers, R-Mich, said on CNN's "State of the Union."
But one Congressional critic of the secrecy sur-
rounding the government's surveillance raised doubts
about the effectiveness about the widespread col-
lection of Americans' phone metadata.
"I don't think collecting millions and millions of
Americans' phone calls---now this is the metadata,
this is the time, place, to whom you direct the calls---
is making us any safer," said Sen Mark Udall, D-Col-
orado. Udall said he would introduce a bill this week
to narrow the reach of that collection to only "those
who have a link to terrorism."
Hayden said he worried that news reports about
the programmes have often provided erroneous infor-
mation, "much to the harm of a rational
national debate." He did not specify those
concerns. The disclosures, provided in recent
days by both the Post and the Guardian
newspaper, came from classified documents
exposed by Snowden, 29, who was working
as a private contractor with the NSA and
later said he grew disenchanted by what he
saw as a growing secret American surveil-
Current, former officials back secret surveillance
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