Dir. Nat'l Intell Responds To NSA Allegations

Adm. Dennis Blair (Ret)., the Director of National Intelligence,  concedes in a statement that the National Security Agency on occasion "made mistakes and intercepted the wrong

communications."  The volume of mistakes, he said, is "very small in terms of our overall
collection efforts, but each one is investigated, the Congress and the courts are notified,
corrective measures are taken, and improvements are put in place to prevent reoccurrences." The ratio of "mistaken" collections to non-mistaken collections is, indeed, probably very small. But that doesn't mean the absolute number of mistaken collections is small. If NSA collects, say, a billion e-mails a year from non-U.S. persons and accidentally collects 100,000 from U.S. citizens, the error rate is tiny... but the number of violations of procedure are significant.   Here, a distinction must be made between the accidental collection of an American fish in a worldwide dragnet -- this happens all time, and the NSA collectors/analysts are instructed to delete the names of Americans who are accidentally intercepted. But the New York Times allegations deal with willful violations of the law: occasions where American citizens had their domestic communications monitored unlawfully.   The full Blair statement follows the jump.
Statement by the Director of National Intelligence
Dennis C. Blair
One of our most effective tools in discovering groups planning to attack us are their
communications, and it is the job of the NSA to intercept them. The NSA does this vital work
under legislation that was passed by the Congress; the NSA actions are supervised by my office and by the Justice Department under court-approved safeguards; when the intercepts are conducted against Americans, it is with individual court orders.

Under these authorities the officers of the National Security Agency collect large amounts of
international telecommunications, and under strict rules review and analyze some of them.
These intercepts have played a vital role in many successes we have had in thwarting terrorist
attacks since 9/11. On occasion NSA has made mistakes and intercepted the wrong
communications. The numbers of these mistakes are very small in terms of our overall
collection efforts, but each one is investigated, the Congress and the courts are notified,
corrective measures are taken, and improvements are put in place to prevent reoccurrences.

Let me clear, I do not and will not support any surveillance activities that circumvent established processes for their lawful authorization and execution. Additionally, we go to great lengths to ensure that the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons are protected. The NSA is vital to the intelligence community's efforts to keep our country safe and to provide valuable intelligence to our decision makers and military operations. Even in 2009 there are organizations plotting to kill Americans using terror tactics, and although the memories of 9/11 are becoming more distant, we in the intelligence services must stop them.
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