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
National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

National

Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.

International

U.S., European airlines halt flights to Israel due…

U.S. and European airlines halted flights to Tel Aviv in an effort to ensure passenger safety as turmoil in Israel and the region has intensified.

Local

Eric Garner death prompts NYPD retraining, pols demanding…

The New York City Police Department will revise training procedures for its officers following the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner after an arrest gone awry.

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.