Disclosure of the massive surveillance of phone records and internet communications risks “long-lasting and irreversible harm” to US national security, the director of national intelligence says.
Late on Thursday night US time James Clapper issued a bullet-point defence of the surveillance programs disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post, saying they contained “numerous safeguards that protect privacy and civil liberties”. To correct the “misleading impression left in the article” – apparently a reference to the Guardian’s original story – Clapper said he approved the declassification of his defence of the National Security Agency’s collection of every phone record from millions of Verizon customers.
“There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” Clapper wrote, “which ensures that those activities comply with the Constitution and laws and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties. The program at issue here is conducted under authority granted by Congress and is authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). By statute, the Court is empowered to determine the legality of the program."