Snowden leaks spark debate: US spy chief

2013-09-13 11:01
NSA leaker Edward Snowden, at a news conference in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. (File, Human Rights Watch/ AP)

NSA leaker Edward Snowden, at a news conference in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. (File, Human Rights Watch/ AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Leaks from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden triggered a much needed debate about surveillance in America, even if they jeopardised national security, the country's spy chief admitted on Thursday.

"As loathe as I am to give any credit for what's happened here, which is egregious," said National Intelligence Director James Clapper, "I think it's clear that some of the conversations that this has generated, some of the debate... actually probably needed to happen."

Speaking at a conference in Washington, Clapper said the public debate about the best way to balance spying powers and privacy rights should "perhaps" have taken place earlier.

"So if there's a good side to this, maybe that's it," he said.

His comments marked the first time a senior US intelligence official has acknowledged the leaks might not have had a solely negative impact.

Officials have previously labelled Snowden a traitor who endangered America's interests and spies in the field.

Clapper, who oversees all 16 US intelligence agencies, predicted there would be more revelations from Snowden, and said he was worried about their long-term effects.

He said he was concerned about "the impact, frankly, on our national security and the damage caused by these continuous stream of revelations".

Transparency

But he said the intelligence community should be more open about its work, even if that meant taking more risks, to ensure that Americans and their representatives in Congress trusted their spy services.

He said his office had this week declassified hundreds of pages of documents from the court that oversees electronic surveillance as part of an attempt to be more transparent.

"Transparency of course is a double-edged sword. It's great for us, great for our citizens. But of course the adversary goes to school on that transparency too," he said.

"But I'm convinced we have to err on the side of more transparency because, most importantly, we won't have any of this if we don't have the trust and confidence of citizens and their elected representatives."

Clapper said he had met with executives from some news media companies to discuss the fallout from the Snowden leaks and found a "big gulf" between how the two sides viewed what affects national security.

And he acknowledged that it was difficult to make the case publicly for current surveillance powers in the aftermath of a wave of bombshell revelations.

It was "a real challenge to sort of punch back and make the alternative case," he said.

"So one of the things we're doing, obviously, is to try to open up, be more transparent, explain to people what we're doing."

To prevent more leaks from insiders, the intelligence agencies were working to improve security clearances and to introduce a single system for all the spy agencies' computer services, he said.

Snowden had worked as a subcontractor in a National Security Agency regional office in Hawaii before handing over secret documents to newspapers that lifted the lid on the extent of US surveillance, including trawling through Americans' phone records and online traffic.

Snowden, who has been charged with espionage by US authorities, has secured temporary asylum in Russia, and his disclosures continue to trickle out in the Guardian and other publications.

President Barack Obama has defended the NSA's surveillance as lawful but has left the door open to more oversight from Congress or through other measures.

Clapper, who addressed an intelligence and security alliance "summit," said he expected new legislation to revise surveillance authorities, and that the changes would be helpful if it helped shore up public confidence.

But he said the NSA, for which he worked earlier in his career, was "an honourable institution" that deserved respect for its work.

Read more on:    nsa  |  james clapper  |  edward snowden  |  barack obama  |  us  |  privacy  |  espionage
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be in the mood to philosophize and socialize and expand your mind on various discussions and group activities. You could...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.