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Government Braces for Coming Changes to NSA Powers

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President Barack Obama's national security team has been arguing today that the government's sweeping domestic surveillance powers need to be retained.
 
But in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, they acknowledged that some limits appear inevitable. They said they want to work with lawmakers who seem intent on imposing those limits.
 
The administration is facing unexpectedly harsh opposition from both parties over the formerly-secret program capable of sweeping up the phone records of every American.
 
Robert Litt, who's counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told lawmakers that the administration is "open to re-evaluating this program" so that the public can be more confident that it protects privacy as well as national security.
 
For the first time, the government is acknowledging publicly that using what it calls "hop analysis," it can analyze the phone records of millions of Americans in the hunt for just one suspected terrorist. That's because NSA analysts can look not just at a suspect's phone records, but also the records of everyone he calls, everyone who calls those people and everyone who calls those people.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy and the Obama administration are clashing over how many terrorist plots might have been thwarted through the secret collection of Americans' phone records since 2006.
 
In today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the Vermont Democrat disputed comments by the head of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, who has said the phone and internet surveillance disrupted 54 schemes by militants. Leahy said a list of the relevant plots provided to Congress does not reflect dozens or, as he said, "let alone 54 as some have suggested."
 
The NSA's deputy director, John Inglis, said the phone surveillance contributed to disrupting or discovering attacks 12 times. Inglis said the 54 involved both the phone records program and a separate initiative gathering Internet data. (AP)

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