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NSA claims ability to ensure no illegal spying

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Posted June 10, 2013
In this Sept. 23, 2010, file photo Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then-commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies about cyberspace operations during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. "More times than we can count, we've made history, without history even knowing we were there," reads a quote on the National Security Agency's web page by current NSA director Alexander. The NSA's experts include mathematicians, and cryptologists, who do everything from breaking codes to learning and translating multiple foreign languages, as well as computer hackers who engage in offensive attacks. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

In this Sept. 23, 2010, file photo Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then-commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies about cyberspace operations during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. “More times than we can count, we’ve made history, without history even knowing we were there,” reads a quote on the National Security Agency’s web page by current NSA director Alexander. The NSA’s experts include mathematicians, and cryptologists, who do everything from breaking codes to learning and translating multiple foreign languages, as well as computer hackers who engage in offensive attacks. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The supersecret agency with the power and legal authority to gather electronic communications worldwide to hunt U.S. adversaries says it has the technical know-how to ensure it’s not illegally spying on Americans.

But mistakes do happen in data-sifting conducted mostly by machines, not humans. Sometimes, former intelligence officials say, that means intelligence agencies destroy material they should not have seen, passed to them by the National Security Agency.

The eavesdropping, code-breaking agency is fighting back after last week’s revelations in the media of two surveillance programs that have raised privacy concerns.

One program collects hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records. The second gathers audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas, and probably some Americans in the process, who use major providers such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

The programs were first reported in a series of articles published by The Guardian newspaper. On Sunday it identified Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old American who works as contract employee at the NSA, as the source of the disclosures. The newspaper said it was publishing the identity of Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, at his request.

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he was quoted as saying.

The NSA filed a criminal report with the Justice Department earlier this week in relation to the leaks. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has stated repeatedly that the NSA’s programs do not target U.S. citizens and that the agency uses a process known as “minimization” to sift out data from “any U.S. persons whose communications might be incidentally intercepted.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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