Obama administration on defensive over surveillance records

An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin, June 7, 2013. The debate over whether the U.S. government is violating citizens'
Data collection reportedly extends beyond Verizon to companies like Google, Apple and Facebook. Credit: Reuters

Reports of sweeping government surveillance of phone and Internet activity put the Obama administration on the defensive Friday, adding pressure on President Barack Obama to explain why such tactics are necessary.

The Washington Post reported late Thursday that federal authorities have been tapping into the central servers of companies including Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files, allowing analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts.

That added to privacy concerns sparked by a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency had been mining phone records from millions of customers of a Verizon Communications subsidiary.

Obama, who pledged to run the most transparent administration in U.S. history, did not mention the surveillance furor in two meetings with supporters on Thursday evening.

He may be forced to broach the subject during his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a California summit on Friday, in which U.S. concerns about alleged Chinese hacking of American secrets were expected to be high on the agenda.

Members of Congress are routinely briefed by the NSA on secret surveillance programs, but it is not yet clear how much they knew about the widespread surveillance of private Internet activity reported by the Washington Post.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said on Friday he thought the administration had good intentions but stressed the program was “just too broad an over-reach.”

“I think there ought to be some connection to suspicion, otherwise we can say that any intrusion on all of our privacy is justified for the times that we will catch the few terrorists,” Waxman told MSNBC. “Good intentions are not enough. We need protections against government intrusion that goes too far.”

PRISM surveillance program

The Washington Post said the surveillance program involving firms including Microsoft, Skype and YouTube, code-named PRISM and established under Republican President George W. Bush in 2007, had seen “exponential growth” under the Democratic Obama administration.

It said the NSA increasingly relies on PRISM as a source of raw material for its intelligence reports.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the report contained “numerous inaccuracies,” and some of the companies identified by the Washington Post denied that the NSA and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had “direct access” to their central servers.

Microsoft said it does not voluntarily participate in government data collection and only complies “with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of California Irvine, said the program was “deeply disturbing” and went beyond what was constitutionally acceptable.

“It is a huge gathering of information by the federal government. The argument that it protects national security is unpersuasive,” he said.

The White House sought on Thursday to defend the National Security Agency’s secret collection of telephone records from millions of Americans as a “critical tool” to prevent attacks. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the data was only used in specific investigations of non-U.S. citizens.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.

National

Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…

National

LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.

Local

Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

Movies

If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."

Travel

World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.

Education

The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…