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US intelligence officials defend spying on foreign leaders

Grant Gross | Oct. 30, 2013
U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday defended surveillance of other countries' leaders, saying such efforts are common practice across the world's intelligence agencies.

It would be wrong to change the program because of a perception of civil liberties violations when the intelligence community hasn't "articulated the program well enough so people understand how we protect their privacy," Alexander said.

While Clapper, Alexander and other intelligence officials faced a largely friendly panel of lawmakers Tuesday, Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, suggested that Alexander was misreading the criticism of the surveillance programs. While Alexander stressed that NSA employees are "patriots," no one has suggested that they aren't, she said.

"People have questioned the policies of the NSA ... and they have been carried out by patriots," she said.

The NSA's surveillance of foreign leaders was kept from the congressional intelligence committees, Schakowsky said. U.S. diplomatic relations have suffered because of those spying efforts, she added.

"There will be changes" to the NSA programs, she told Clapper and Alexander. "What I heard from you was a robust defense, effectively, of the status quo."

 

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