Administration urges terror surveillance renewal

Associated Press Modified: September 11, 2012 at 8:02 pm •  Published: September 11, 2012
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Some members of Congress have suggested that the law contains a loophole that enables intelligence-gathering on U.S. citizens.

"I strongly take exception to the suggestion that there is a 'loophole,'" James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a letter to 11 Senate Democrats and two Senate Republicans on Aug. 24.

The law prohibits "reverse targeting — targeting a person located outside the United States as a pretext when the real goal is to target a person inside the United States."

On Tuesday night, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said the DNI's Aug. 24 response does not sufficiently address Udall's concerns regarding "the possibility of unauthorized surveillance of Americans." Wyden criticized the lack of "even a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have had their communications collected under this law."

Asked at the news briefing about the program's successes, Litt said that the ability to collect certain kinds of communications that cannot be gathered any other way is "incredibly helpful." He said that being more specific would signal to the targets of the surveillance what was being collected.

In July, the administration acknowledged in a rare disclosure that the program had exceeded legal limits on at least one occasion, but that the problem had been remedied. The ODNI made the comment in a letter to Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On at least one occasion, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held that an intelligence collection effort was "unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment" requirement to obtain a court warrant, Wyden said at the time.

In response, the intelligence office said that Wyden's statements "may convey an incomplete and potentially misleading understanding" of what is at issue.

Litt said he had met with Wyden, talked through the issues and that the ODNI was prepared to continue doing that.

"If a problem develops, we fix it," Litt said of the program.


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