The NSA’s massive surveillance programs are now collecting data on millions of Americans, and the agency says that the program is legal and justified.
As Ars Technic reports, the information gathered by the NSA is part of the agency’s global intelligence effort.
The NSA is also using the data to conduct targeted surveillance of U.S. citizens overseas.
Ars Technics report cites the National Security Agency’s director, Mike Rogers, as saying that the agency will continue to collect data on “millions of people” and will continue “to use the information we collect” to target foreign terrorists.
“That information will be used to protect the American people,” Rogers said, adding that he believes the information is legal.
The information collected by the agency can also be used for “counterintelligence” purposes, which is a legal definition of “counter-terrorism” the NSA says it has to follow.
“The information that we collect, whether it’s from U.N. missions, our embassies, our consulates, our diplomatic missions, we can use that information to gather intelligence that will help protect the homeland and the United States,” Rogers told reporters at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“If we think there is a foreign threat, we will gather information about that threat and then use that intelligence to fight that threat.”
Rogers’ comments came during an interview with CBS News’s 60 Minutes, where he was asked whether the NSA will use the data collected by its surveillance programs to target terrorists.
He responded that the government will be “collecting information about every American” and “use it to help protect us.”
Rogers added that “we can’t be everywhere all the time.”
According to the NSA, the NSA collects data about Americans by collecting “metadata” about their Internet activity and phone calls.
“Our goal is to have a global collection, not just a local collection,” Rogers explained, adding, “that means all of the information collected around the world is part and parcel of that global collection.”
The NSA also collects “direct” information about American citizens, which includes data on their “lifestyle,” “physical appearance,” and other factors.
In a statement, the agency said that the collection of “metadata and direct data is permitted under the law and does not require judicial approval.”
“NSA collects data for many legitimate government purposes, including national security, law enforcement, cybersecurity, and foreign intelligence purposes,” the statement read.
“These types of programs are necessary to protect against terrorist threats, protect our nation, and keep Americans safe.”
Ars Technia has reached out to the FBI and the NSA for comment on the reports of the NSA targeting U.K. citizens.
Ars is also reporting that the NSA has collected data on the phone records of Americans.
Ars’ reporting on the surveillance programs has been consistent with previous reporting, as we have documented the collection and sharing of phone records by other agencies.