Allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency is building a type of Big Brother machine in Utah that can access all electronic communications have officially been denied by the agency’s director, who came under scrutiny by members of Congress on Tuesday.
Responding to the recent report by Wired author James Bamford, one of the leading journalists on NSA affairs, General Keith Alexander insisted that no matter what Bamford’s insider sources might claim, the NSA is not able to spy on the communications of American citizens.
Published last week, Bamford’s story rips open alleged plans to build a data center in Utah equipped with the most advanced spy tech in history. His sources claimed it essentially represents the resurrection of the “Total Information Awareness” program that Congress killed in 2003.
The center will allegedly be capable of breaking almost any encryption, reading any email and recording any phone call anywhere in the world, even if it’s not made over the Internet. A network of ultra-sensitive satellites enhance the center’s intelligence-finding capabilities with the unique ability to sniff electronic communications from a massive distance.
More troubling still, Bamford’s three covert sources who worked for the NSA reportedly claim that the agency is dumping Americans’ communications into the mix, knowingly violating the U.S. Constitution in pursuit of a modern-day Manhattan Project. And it’s not just Bamford’s sources: prior reporting by MSNBC, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other publications have carried similar claims by other insiders.
Confronted by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) with the latest allegations at a hearing on Tuesday, Gen. Alexander calmly refuted them, one by one.
“We don’t have the technical insights in the United States,” he claimed. “In other words, you have to have… some way of doing that either by going to a service provider with a warrant or you have to be collecting in that area. We’re not authorized to do that, nor do we have the equipment in the United States to collect that kind of information.”
He added that the only way to spy on someone within the U.S. is if the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led the investigation, and only after they had obtained a court order — a claim that was repeated ad nauseam by the Bush Administration, which proved to be untrue.
This video was published to YouTube by Rep. Hank Johnson on March 20, 2012.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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