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Deputy NSA Director Chris Inglis said a limited number of officials at the agency could authorize dissemination of information to the FBI related to a U.S. citizen, and only after determining it was necessary to understand a counterterrorism issue. Information related to an American who is found not to be relevant to a counterterrorism investigation must be destroyed, he added.
Alexander said 10 people were involved in that process, including himself and Inglis.
The hearing came the morning after President Barack Obama vigorously defended the surveillance programs in a lengthy interview, calling them transparent — even though they are authorized in secret.
Obama said he has named representatives to a privacy and civil liberties oversight board first established in 2004 to help in the debate over just how far government data gathering should be allowed to go. The discussion is complicated by the secrecy surrounding the surveillance court, with hearings held at undisclosed locations and with only government lawyers present. The orders that result are all highly classified.
Snowden on Monday accused members of Congress and administration officials of exaggerating their claims about the success of the data gathering programs, including pointing to the arrest of the would-be New York subway bomber, Najibullah Zazi, in 2009.
In an online interview with The Guardian in which he posted answers to questions, he said Zazi could have been caught with narrower, targeted surveillance programs — a point Obama conceded in his interview without mentioning Snowden.
"We might have caught him some other way," Obama said. "We might have disrupted it because a New York cop saw he was suspicious. Maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn’t go off. But, at the margins, we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs," he said.
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