August 9th, 2013
08:36 PM ET

Documents shed light on U.S. surveillance programs

By Evan Perez

The Obama administration released two documents on Friday describing the scope of National Security Agency data collection programs, a bid to quiet criticism they violate privacy rights.

An NSA memorandum describes the beginnings of the agency's collection of so-called telephone metadata of nearly every American under a provision of the Patriot Act, and the agency's monitoring of foreign Internet traffic.

The agency says in the memo that its systems monitor 1.6% of the world's Internet traffic, and its analysts review .00004% of global traffic.

Published accounts drawn from leaked documents provided by admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden have portrayed a much broader eavesdropping system under section 702 of the Patriot Act.

Another document from the Justice Department describes the legal basis for collecting the telephone metadata, such as the numbers dialed, the length and time of the calls. The government says the NSA phone data collection operated under court supervision, and that the database is only accessed for specific searches in counterterrorism investigations.

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • NSA • PRISM
Opinion: We need transparency on domestic spying
July 23rd, 2013
09:44 AM ET

Opinion: We need transparency on domestic spying

By Al Franken, Special to CNN

Last month, when Edward Snowden began leaking highly classified documents to the press, many Americans were shocked by what they read.

I don't blame them. For years, the architecture of the programs designed to keep us safe have been a secret to all but a few members of the intelligence community and select legislators. The companies that were involved in these programs were under strict gag orders. And while members of Congress had the opportunity to be briefed on these programs, it would have been a crime, literally, for us to have talked about them publicly.

As a result, when Snowden's leaks became public, Americans had no way of knowing the scope of these programs, their privacy protections and the legal authorities they were operating under. It was just Snowden and his documents on the one side and the government on the other, saying "trust us."

Editor's note: Al Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate and is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • Edward Snowden • NSA • Opinion • PRISM
July 18th, 2013
06:02 PM ET

ACLU, government reps debate whether Snowden is public servant or traitor

By Dan Merica and Elise Labott

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

Was Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?

That is the question the media, the public and elected officials have debated ever since Snowden released classified information about the United States' efforts to monitor its own citizens.

But on Thursday, the debate got more interesting when representatives from the National Security Agency - the organization Snowden leaked information about - the Pentagon and the American Civil Liberties Union informally debated the issue in public.

"I think he did this country a service," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU said regarding Snowden. "I have not said that publicly until this point. I think he did this country a service by starting a debate that was anemic, that was left to government officials where people did not understand fully what was happening."


In wake of NSA leaks, former key lawmaker says no tradeoff needed between security and liberty
July 15th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

In wake of NSA leaks, former key lawmaker says no tradeoff needed between security and liberty

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.

By Elise Labott, CNN

Revelations of classified National Security Agency programs by former contractor Edward Snowden have prompted debate about the public and political oversight of U.S. intelligence and the role of a special court that reviews electronic surveillance requests.

CNN’s Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott talks to Jane Harman, a former Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, about fallout from the Snowden leaks and questions they raise about the role of intelligence collection.

Harman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, will participate in a panel about counterterrorism, national security and the rule of law at the Aspen Security Forum this week.


June 18th, 2013
01:46 PM ET

Surveillance thwarted stock exchange bomb plot, officials say

By Dana Bash and Tom Cohen

Bomb plots targeting the New York Stock Exchange and the city's subway were among more than 50 worldwide thwarted by top-secret surveillance programs since the 2011 al Qaeda attacks on the United States, authorities said on Tuesday.

Gen. Keith Alexander, National Security Agency director, FBI and other officials revealed startling details at a House Intelligence Committee hearing aimed at finding out more about the telephone and e-mail surveillance initiatives that came to light this month through leaks of classified information to newspapers.

It was the most comprehensive and specific defense of those methods that have come under ferocious criticism from civil liberties groups, some members of Congress and others concerned about the reach of government into the private lives of citizens in the interest of national security.

National security and law enforcement officials asserted that the leaks were egregious and carry huge consequences for national security.

Snowden claim online says Obama expanded 'abusive' security programs
June 17th, 2013
12:45 PM ET

Snowden claim online says Obama expanded 'abusive' security programs

By Tom Cohen

The man who admitted leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs purportedly went online live on Monday to declare the truth would come out even if he is jailed or killed, and said President Barack Obama did not fulfill his promises and expanded several "abusive" national security initiatives.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Edward Snowden answered questions in an online chat about why he revealed details of the National Security Agency's secret surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Snowden said he did so because Obama campaigned for the presidency on a platform of ending abuses. But instead, he said Obama "closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."

Snowden also wrote that he had to get out of the United States before the leaks were published by the Guardian and Washington Post to avoid being targeted by the government.

Read the latest here.

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At social event, DNI Clapper acknowledges "the elephant in the room"
June 8th, 2013
11:42 PM ET

At social event, DNI Clapper acknowledges "the elephant in the room"

By Pam Benson

It would probably be an understatement to say this was one of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s worst weeks on the job.

Leaked details of two top secret surveillance programs had the intelligence community and the Obama Administration scrambling to respond to what appears to be a massive effort to collect phone records of Americans and the e-mails and other communications of foreigners by the National Security Agency.

At a dinner Friday night honoring former CIA Director Michael Hayden, the DNI acknowledged his tough few days with a quip: “So many emails to read, so little time.”

But Clapper had serious comments about what he called “the elephant in the room.”


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Filed under: Intelligence • NSA • PRISM