US intelligence boss slams reports alleging internet surveillance of citizens

7 Jun 2013

The director of National Intelligence for the US Government James R Clapper has dismissed as “containing numerous inaccuracies” newspaper reports claiming intelligence agencies have been spying on the internet activities of US citizens with the collusion of major technology companies.

Both The Guardian and The Washington Post had reports claiming that a system called PRISM was used by intelligence agents to spy on the internet activities of users inside and outside the US.

They also reported that the system collects data from the servers of nine major technology companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

The reports came on the heel of earlier reports that suggested US intelligence agencies as part of the PRISM program demanded phone logs on US citizens from telecoms giant Verizon.

However, Clapper has said that the Section 702 provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which facilitates PRISM is designed to acquire foreign intelligence information on non-US citizens located outside the States.

“It cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen or any other US person, or anyone located within the United States,” Clapper said.

He said activities authorized by Section 702 are overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch and Congress.

He added that this involves procedures that ensure only non-US individuals outside the US are targeted.

Clapper confirmed that Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats,” Clapper said.

Clapper also warned whistlblowers that they are risking lives by leaking information about the intelligence apparatus of the US.

“The unauthorised disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans,” Clapper said.

Surveillance image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years