National Security Brief: U.S. Intel Head Confirms Data Collection Program

The New York Times reports that the director of national intelligence confirmed on Thursday that the government has been collecting information on foreigners overseas via big tech companies like Facebook, Google, Skype and Apple.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that under the program, codenamed “PRISM,” the NSA and FBI are tapping directly into these companies servers extracting audio, video, chat, photos and other data.

But James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the program targets only foreigners. “It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States,” Clapper said in a statement. “Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”

The companies denied that they are allowing the government access to their servers and some denied even knowing about the program at all, but, that doesn’t mean they’re not cooperating.

In other news:

  • The Washington Post reports: Striking a defiant tone after a week of demonstrations that have roiled Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that he would not abandon plans to raze a park in central Istanbul despite protesters’ objections.
  • The Hill reports: The Obama administration has received and is now reviewing evidence that France says confirms that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in Syria, the State Department said Thursday.
  • The New York Times reports: The Chinese diplomat with perhaps the deepest knowledge of the United States, Cui Tiankai, the country’s ambassador in Washington, is its chief behind-the-scenes facilitator for the meeting that will bring together Mr. Xi and President Obama at Sunnylands, the Walter H. Annenberg desert estate, starting Friday.