Zee Media Bureau
Washington: In wake of the furore generated by the expose of US surveillance programmes, NSA Director Keith Alexander on Wednesday sought to defend the act, saying that they were able to thwart “dozens of terrorist events” due to internet and phone snooping efforts.
Speaking to the lawmakers at a Senate hearing, Alexander said, “We do not see a tradeoff between security and liberty."
"It`s classified, but it`s dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent," he said.
Clarifying over the transparency and authenticity of the procedures involved, Alexander said that when the NSA seeks specific phone data, "that it is auditable by the (congressional) committees, by the courts, by the administration."
Alexander said that the NSA operates “in a way that ensures we keep the trust of the American people because that trust is a sacred requirement. I want the American people to know that we`re being transparent in here ".
Asked whether NSA could determine what people are looking for on the search engine Google, he said: "Yes we could. You could get a court order... To do any kind of search in this area, you would need a court order."
The secret about two NSA programmes was spilled by a NSA contractor and ex-CIA worker Edward Snowden, who made the information public via two newspapers namely, The Guardian and The Washington Post.
The two National Security Agency programs target suspicious foreign messages — potentially including phone numbers, email, images, video and other online communications transmitted through US providers.
One of the NSA programs gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
Expressing concern over the leak, Alexander told a Senate panel that, "great harm has already been done, by opening this up and the consequence I believe is our security is jeopardised."
"There is no doubt in my mind that we will lose capabilities as a result of this and that not only the United States but those allies that we have helped will no longer be as safe as they were two weeks ago."
Alexander said part of the mission of the NSA and the Cyber Command he heads is to protect so-called critical infrastructure, which includes power grids, water systems and computer networks which support them.
"The United States is already a target," he said.
"Networks and websites owned by Americans and located here have endured intentional, state-sponsored attacks, and some have incurred degradation and disruption because they happened to be along the route to another state`s overseas targets," he said.
With Agency Inputs