National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander says 54 militant plots were uncovered thanks to the data surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden. Photo: Reuters
The director of the US National Security Agency on Thursday offered a more detailed breakdown of 54 schemes by militants that he said were disrupted by phone and internet surveillance, even as a British newspaper offered evidence of more extensive spying.
In a speech in Baltimore, NSA chief General Keith Alexander said the list of cases turned over recently to Congress included 42 that involved disrupted plots and 12 in which surveillance targets provided material support to terrorism.
Alexander's assertions about the effectiveness of NSA surveillance came as Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that the NSA for years collected masses of raw data on the email and Internet traffic of US citizens and residents.
Citing a top-secret draft report prepared in 2009 by NSA's inspector general, the Guardian said that the collection of what it described as "bulk internet metadata" began shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Initially the program collected only information in which one party was outside the United States or communications between known foreigners. But the program expanded in 2007.
The paper said the Internet "metadata" comprised the addresses to and from which messages were sent, including IP addresses which could show a person's physical location. It quoted officials saying this particular collection effort ended in 2011.
In his speech to a communications and electronics industry group, Alexander said the NSA case list was provided late last week to several congressional committees. He said that 50 of the 54 cases cited had resulted in arrests or detentions.
He also said that 25 of the arrests or detentions occurred in Europe, 11 in Asia, and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of the plots occurred inside the United States, he added.
The latest Guardian revelations appear to show that NSA collected the same kind of raw Internet traffic data among people inside the United States as it collects on telephone users.
The Guardian also previously published secret documents about an NSA program called Prism, which gave NSA the capability to search the content of traffic sent through US Internet companies by foreign intelligence subjects. The paper's latest revelations do not discuss the searching or examination of email content.
In his speech, Alexander said that 12 foiled plots involved using material gathered under the agency's raw telephone data collection program.
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