The country’s top intelligence official slammed the media for what he called a “rush to publish” leaks about the government’s secret Internet surveillance program, while continuing to defend the monitoring itself.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement Saturday that Congress is fully aware of the surveillance activities, which he said are for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information to foil attacks against the U.S.
“Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,” Clapper said. “In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context – including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government – to these effective tools.”
Clapper said there have been “significant misimpressions” resulting from published media reports, but said he could not go into detail to correct them because of the need for secrecy.
“Disclosing information about the specific methods the government uses to collect communications can obviously give our enemies a ‘playbook’ of how to avoid detection,” Clapper said.
Still, Clapper said he was declassifying some additional details about the program, called PRISM. He said PRISM is a government computer system for collecting foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.
Clapper said the U.S. government “does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers.”
He said the government “cannot target anyone” for data collection without “appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence” reasons. Additionally, the much-discussed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act “cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, or any other U.S person.”