US denies 'unilateral' data collection from internet cos

The Obama Administration has denied allegations of 'unilaterally' collecting information from internet companies, as being reported in the media, which has resulted in outrage in the country.

Washington: The Obama Administration has denied allegations of 'unilaterally' collecting information from internet companies, as being reported in the media, which has resulted in outrage in the country.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, yesterday declassified a portion of its information related to the secretive 'PRISM' in this regard, and strongly denied that it 'unilaterally' obtains information from the servers of US Internet companies.

In a statement, Clapper said internet companies provide user data to the National Security Agency only after receiving an order approved by a secret FISA court.

"PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining programme. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government's statutorily authorised collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorised by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)," a DNI fact sheet said.

This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008, it said, adding that under Section 702 of FISA, the US Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of US electronic communication service providers.

"All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence," it said.

"In short, Section 702 facilitates the targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight.

Service providers supply information to the Government when they are lawfully required to do so," the DNI said.

DNI said the US Government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States.

"We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose," it said.

"In addition, Section 702 cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen, or any other US person, or to intentionally target any person known to be in the United States.

Likewise, Section 702 cannot be used to target a person outside the United States if the purpose is to acquire information from a person inside the United States," the fact sheet said.

DNI said collection of intelligence information under Section 702 is subject to an extensive oversight regime, incorporating reviews by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

In a related statement, Clapper alleged that media outlets are indulging in reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe.

"In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context-including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government-to these effective tools," he said.

"In particular, the surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorised by Congress.

Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber-attacks against the United States and its allies," he said.