Transcript: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013

Partial transcript of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s (R-Georgia) Q&A with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander on NSA’s surveillance programs before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 29, 2013:

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia):
…You know, we find it hard politically when these things keep coming out a little at a time about these mistakes and, you know, all this information. And I guess my question is, you know, Mr. Snowden is supposedly the source of all of this information and we have all talked to you all before about what the level that he was at and how he would have this kind of knowledge. And I know that some of the things that are being put out are not true, as has already been stated here, and we know that. But it’s kind of like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. But exactly how – I mean, is this stuff that he’s just making up? Or did he really have knowledge of these things that were going on while he was at NSA?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Congressman, he had tremendous access as one of our website administrators in Hawaii. And it wasn’t that he had knowledge because he clearly didn’t understand things about how these tools actually operate. You could see the misperception for what was stated was collection on one of the European countries had nothing to do with collection on an European country. Having said that, his job was to administer a website that brought information to NSA Hawaii for the people in NSA Hawaii. He did not have access to the FISA data nor the business records 215 nor some of our more sensitive. But he did get great access to what we’ll call the core capabilities that we have in our product reporting and he took a lot of that. He took a lot of that data with him and he has shared that with newspaper reporters, and that’s what’s being dribbled out. And I believe that is being done in a way that would cause national harm. I don’t know why they would want to harm our country but that’s what’s happening and our allies.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia):
Well, let me ask you this: As far as the information that you all collect and store, what is the difference there? Because I know these micro-targeters and people that do Internet ads and whatever, they know what kind of food we eat, they know what kind of car we drive, they know all different types of information about us. What kind of different things do they use rather than what you use because evidently you use or have access to less information than what they do?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
So there is a difference in what we’re authorized to collect. Remember, we’re a foreign intelligence agency. The only reason why we have that business record FISA is to connect the dots between the foreign and the domestic. There is no content there and so there is no other collection that you would get from the other people who operate on the network civilian industry for the purposes that they use that to protect our credit cards or things like that. Our whole purpose – we don’t need to know the name, we don’t need the content of the U.S. person – all we need to do is to associate a number and then give that to the FBI and let them do that.

You know, this is a hugely important point that you brought up because I think it’s important for the American people to understand that we’re not collecting the contents of their email or their phones. We’re not listening to that. You see that coming around. We don’t have that information nor do we collect that. We have what’s in the business record FISA and what we’re authorized under a FISA court warrant. And if it’s a U.S. person, we have to go out and get that probable cause standard to go after it even if they’re overseas using our apparatus. So this is a huge point, and I think a lot of people assume that because we can, we are…

But what you’re seeing is this system has tremendous oversight and controls; it’s focused. And if we make a mistake – even a transition – we report it. This is not nor have we seen where anybody other than those 12 cases over a decade has anybody going out collecting on U.S. persons illegally. We’re not doing it. And if we find somebody doing it, we’ll hold them accountable. That’s a guarantee.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia):
…I just want to make the point that in a lot of private companies in this country have a lot more information on our citizens than what the NSA does and use that information sometimes that, you know, may not be the best way we would like for that information to be shared…


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