POLITICS: PennAve

Jay Carney: NSA not interested in Americans' 'personal information'

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,National Security,PennAve,NSA,Meghashyam Mali,Jay Carney,Privacy,Technology

The White House on Wednesday downplayed a report that the national security Agency had tapped thousands of computers worldwide to conduct surveillance.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that he would not discuss “specific tools and processes,” but said the NSA was conducting lawful intelligence gathering and acts under “heavy oversight.”

“They're not interested in the personal information about Americans,” said Carney, adding that the agency also was not using its technology for industrial espionage.

The report on NSA tapping from the New York Times said the spy agency had installed secret software on 100,000 computers worldwide -- including those not connected to the internet -- using a covert radio channel. The program also allows the NSA a platform to combat foreign cyberattacks, the report claims.

Disclosures from former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA's surveillance practices, including the monitoring and collection of phone and internet metadata, sparking a debate about the proper balance between privacy concerns and national security.

The administration has defended the NSA programs, even as President Obama reviews the recommendations of an outside panel that called for tighter controls on the agency's surveillance.

Obama is slated to unveil his changes to the NSA in a speech at the Justice Department on Friday.

Carney said the president was “in the final stages of wrapping up” his review. But he added that he would not “discuss decisions and outcomes” before Obama shared his decision.

The president has been meeting with stakeholders and is weighing a number of recommendations, including placing collected data under the control of phone companies and a proposal to add a civil liberties advocate before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, though, blasted the idea of a privacy advocate before the court in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that it would add to the judiciary’s workload and could give foreign agents greater procedural protections than are afforded to U.S. citizens.

Carney declined to address the judge’s concerns. “We’re not going to discuss observations and assessments by others,” before Obama’s speech, he said.

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