Washington: Defending the internet and telephone surveillance program of its National Security Agency, the White House has said it examines only "a very small percentage" of the world`s traffic.
"In carrying out its mission, NSA collects only what it is explicitly authorised to collect.
And while NSA analysts examine only a very small percentage of the world`s traffic, if communications of US persons are incidentally collected the agency must follow minimisation procedures that are approved by the US Attorney General and designed to protect the privacy of US persons," the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.
"Specifically, these procedures require NSA to minimise the acquisition processing, retention and dissemination of information of or concerning US persons," he said adding that the purpose of the program is to investigate and potentially prevent terrorist threats emanating from foreign sources.
"And the protections in place regarding the inadvertent collection of information of US citizens ensure that there`s a process of minimisation that protects the privacy of American citizens," he said in response to a question.
Carney said when an American national sends an email overseas, it is not being read.
"It`s not being read. The information that is targeted has to do with terrorist threats or potential terrorist threats emanating from foreign persons in foreign areas," he said.
"And there are procedures in place that ensure that inadvertently collected information is minimised and dealt with appropriately," he said.
The NSA program he said focused entirely on foreign terrorist threats, and information that is tracked is related solely to that.
The White House Press Secretary was responding to a question on The New York Times report that the NSA had been "searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans` emails and text communications" without a warrant.