James Clapper, US Director of National Intelligence, released the following statement defending PRISM. Translation added:
The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.
We need to spin this ASAP, and make two of the most respected news outlets in the world look like sensationalist supermarket rags.
Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.
We ‘target’ non-U.S. persons in the middle of a wide-angle lens. If you’ve ever been called or emailed by someone who called or emailed a non-U.S. person then we’ve got data on everyone you called or emailed. It’s called ‘content chaining’, or ‘incidental collection’. Don’t worry about it. Unless you have something to worry about.
Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.
Most people don’t realize that the public is supposed to be a check on the Judicial branch of government, and as long as we cloak FISC from view the public never has to worry about it.
Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.
Thankfully, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, both of whom are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and had classified knowledge of PRISM and the depth to which it collects data on U.S. persons, were legally forbidden from revealing the extent or existence of the program to their Senate colleagues when the FISA Amendments Act went up for debate.
Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.
While your privacy can be waived at our convenience, ours is sacrosanct. If anyone else within our organization says a peep about this initiative they’ll find themselves so deep in shit that Bradley Manning will look like Mr. Clean.
In other news, the NSA is considering sponsoring the creation of a prime time television series featuring a secret machine that spies on what everyone in the country is doing or saying, and the machine is portrayed as the protagonist.