NSA used to gather internet records

2013-06-28 08:12
Barney, former White House Scottish Terrier and star of holiday videos shot during President George W Bush’s administration, has died after suffering from cancer. (Susan Walsh, AP/File)

Barney, former White House Scottish Terrier and star of holiday videos shot during President George W Bush’s administration, has died after suffering from cancer. (Susan Walsh, AP/File)

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Washington - Documents disclosed on Thursday show that the Obama administration gathered US citizens' internet data until 2011, continuing a spying programme started under President George W Bush that revealed who Americans exchanged emails with and the Internet Protocol address of their computer.

The National Security Agency ended the programme that collected e-mail logs and timing, but not content, because it did not do what was needed to stop terrorist attacks, according to the NSA's director. General Keith Alexander, who also heads the US Cyber Command, said all data was purged at that time.

The Guardian newspaper on Thursday released documents detailing the collection. The programme was also described earlier this month by The Washington Post.

The latest revelation follows previous leaks to the newspapers from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is presumed to be hiding at a Moscow airport transit area, waiting to hear whether Ecuador or another country might grant him asylum. He fled Hong Kong over the weekend and flew to Russia after being charged with violating US espionage laws.

The leaks have led to a renewed debate over national security and US citizens' privacy.

The Internet data collection appears similar to the gathering of US phone records, and seems to overlap with the Prism surveillance program of foreigners on US internet servers, both revealed by Snowden. US officials have said the phone records can only be checked for numbers dialed by a terrorist suspect overseas.

Alexander said at a conference on cybersecurity that the NSA decided to kill the internet data gathering program because "it wasn't meeting what we needed and we thought we could better protect civil liberties and privacy by doing away with it."

He said the programme was conducted under provisions of the Patriot Act, and that NSA leaders went to the Obama administration and Congress with the recommendation to shut it down.

Shawn Turner, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence, said the programme has not resumed.

The IP address is the specific numeric address assigned to a computer connected to the internet.

The Guardian reported that some collection continues, authorised as recently as December 2012, but the newspaper only published documents detailing the earlier programme started under Bush in 2001.

The Washington Post described the internet surveillance in its earlier report, without publishing the documents or releasing as many details. The Post described it as part of four secret surveillance programmes - two aimed at phone and internet metadata, while two others target contents of phone and internet communications.

Read more on:    nsa  |  edward snowden  |  us  |  privacy

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