NSA chief defends its spying programs

4:18 PM, Oct 29, 2013   |    comments
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The director of the U.S. National Security Agency, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, testifies during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, June 12. (Photo: Mark Wilson Getty Images)

WASHINGTON - Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, defended his agency, saying what his staff does "is bring back more U.S. soldiers, airmen and Marines" alive from dangerous postings.

"We see the threats coming at this nation," Alexander said.

"We see what neither the CIA nor FBI could see" before 9/11, Alexander said. "We help them connect the dots."

In just five months, terrorists have killed thousands of people in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, he said. "And yet not one major terrorist incident in the United States since 9/11. That's not by accident," Alexander said.

The National Security Agency has been under a spotlight over accusations that it monitored the phone calls of leaders who are U.S. allies and is sweeping up phone transactions of millions of Europerans as part of an anti-terror surveillance program.

The NSA on Sunday denied a report in the German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, citing unnamed intelligence sources, that Obama was told by Alexander in 2010 that Merkel's phone was being tapped and that Obama allowed it to continue.

"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true." NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the NSA stopped a program that intercepted the communications of Merkel and other European leaders after an internal White House review informed President Obama this summer of the extent of the surveillance.

The report, which cited unnamed U.S. officials, followed a day of upheaval in Europe, as German and French officials criticized the United States for the alleged extent of the NSA surveillance, which was reported in several European publications.

But Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said reports in French news media that the United States has eavesdropped on millions of phone calls of French citizens are "100% wrong.''

Rogers called criticism of the U.S. intelligence operations from European leaders "disingenuous.''

"It's a good thing," he said. "It keeps the French safe, it keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe. This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interests I think is disingenuous.''

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