Skip to main content

Official: Damage assessment over U.S. intelligence-gathering leaks

By Chelsea J. Carter and Jessica Yellin, CNN
updated 8:24 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Currently, there's a review underway to understand" potential damage, official says
  • National Intelligence Director James Clapper declassified details of the PRISM program
  • PRISM is a computer system that manages foreign intelligence, according to the material

Rancho Mirage, California (CNN) -- Following the furor over revelations the U.S. government is collecting telephone records and data mining popular online services, National Intelligence Director James Clapper took the unusual step Saturday of declassifying some details about the programs.

In doing so, Clapper reiterated President Barack Obama's position that the programs are necessary to fight terrorism, while one of his deputies said the administration was looking into possible repercussions caused by leaks to the media about programs.

"We are doing an assessment of the damage that has been done to U.S. national security by the revelation of this information," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters during a news briefing in Rancho Mirage, California, where President Barack Obama was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"...Currently, there's a review underway to understand what potential damage may be done."

How does it affect me?

Clapper's declassification of some details is the most comprehensive explanation by the government to date of how the programs work and what information they collect.

U.S. intelligence agencies mining data
Fleischer: I praise President Obama
Paul: Govt. data mining not a surprise
Dershowitz: Don't overreact to NSA acts

Among the details made public: The National Security Agency's PRISM program -- the program that reportedly allows the government to access online services -- is an internal government computer system that is used to manage foreign intelligence collected from online providers and services.

"Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe," Clapper said in a statement distributed along with a two-and-a-half pages of details about the programs.

Privacy's already dead

"In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context -- including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government."

The release of the declassified material comes as the government is under fire following revelations about the surveillance and intelligence programs that have seen privacy advocates call for reforms and elected officials question the expansive nature of the intelligence-gathering activities.

Internet laughs about being spied on

The revelations began Wednesday, when a British newspaper, the Guardian, published a top secret order from an intelligence court that required Verizon Business Network Services to give telephone records detailing the time, location and telephone numbers involved in domestic calls from April 25 to July 19.

Revelation opens political Pandora's box

That was followed a day later by a report from The Washington Post that the government was using a program called PRISM that reportedly allows NSA analysts access to computers at Microsoft, Google, Apple and other companies to extract details of customer activities, including "audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents" and other materials.

Clapper said the surveillance activities published in the Guardian and The Washington Post are "lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress" since its inception in 2008.

Opinion: The great privacy debate

Jessica Yellin reported from Rancho Mirage, and Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta; CNN's Todd Sperry, Candy Crowley and Pam Benson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Traitor or patriot? Low-level systems analyst or highly trained spy?
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
What are the takeaways from Snowden's NBC interview? You might be surprised.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Months after accepting asylum in Russia, Snowden asked Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.
ADVERTISEMENT