Obama asks Americans to 'make some choices' in broad phone, Internet spy programs
Obama echoed intelligence experts — both inside and outside the government — who predicted that potential attackers will find other, secretive ways to communicate now that they know that their phone and Internet records may be targeted.
An al-Qaida affiliated website on Saturday warned against using the Internet to discuss issues related to militant activities in three long articles on what it called "America's greatest and unprecedented scandal of spying on its own citizens and people in other countries."
"Caution: Oh brothers, it is a great danger revealing PRISM, the greatest American spying project," wrote one member, describing the NSA program that gathers information from major U.S. Internet companies.
"A highly important caution for the Internet jihadis...American intelligence gets information from Facebook and Google," wrote another.
Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., who served on the House Intelligence Committee for a decade, said "the bad folks' antennas go back up and they become more cautious for a period of time."
"But we'll just keep coming up with more sophisticated ways to dig into these data. It becomes a techies game, and we will try to come up with new tools to cut through the clutter," he said.
Hoekstra said he approved the phone surveillance program but did not know about the online spying.
In the immediate years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government began collecting data from U.S. telephone companies, looking at whether overseas terror suspects were calling phone numbers in the U.S. The program does not allow the government to listen in on calls, but it can track where a call was placed and how long it lasted. If intelligence officials single out phone numbers that they want to target for eavesdropping, they must return to court to get approval.
In 2006, after the telephone surveillance was first revealed and amid a public outcry, a secret court was tasked with approving all of the government requests for the records. But until this week, it was not widely known how many phone records were noted, or how often.
The NSA seizure of website and Internet provider records was even more secretive, and began only in the past few years. Clapper said those records, too, are released only with secret court orders and monitors look only for documents that appear to have come from overseas. The data are not to be used to target U.S. citizens, and the government must try to minimize any information that was mistakenly taken from Americans.
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.
Follow Lara Jakes Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP .
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