James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, has responded to reports from the Washington Post and the Guardian which broke news that authorities were monitoring data from US citizens via a number of major tech firms.

A statement from Clapper claims that the reports on the PRISM program — Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – “contained numerous inaccuracies”, primarily the assertion that the initiative collected data on US-based Internet users.

“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,” Clapper said.

The Director added that the leak was “reprehensible” and “risks important protections for the security of Americans”.

“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,” Clapper further explained.

While the NSA and Clapper have denied that the measures were used on data from US citizens, a number of allegations raised by the reports remain unclear. Namely, were the tech companies listed in the leaked PowerPoint presentation knowingly and willing cooperating with the program, were they forced to join or was the NSA monitoring their data independently?

All but two of the companies have denied knowledge of the program, with some refuting that they allowed the NSA ‘direct’ access to their data. That word is particularly important as it could mean that information was provided indirectly — ie via an API — which would suggest they were complicit.

Clapper’s rather predictable statement leaves us in the same situation and with the same questions.

Here’s the statement in full:

DNI Statement on Activities Authorized Under Section 702 of FISA

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.

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.

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.

Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and 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.

The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.

James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence

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