For the second time this week, President Barack Obama's administration took the unusual move of declassifying a law to respond to newspapers reports about controversial surveillance programs.
James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said Saturday in a statement that the leaks that lead to the articles in the Washington Post and the Guardian of London were "reckless" and omitted important facts.
"The surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress," he said. "Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber attacks against the United States and its allies."
Recent newspaper reports said that the National Security Agency tapping directly into the central servers of nine companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook.
But Clapper said the program called PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program, but rather a computer system used to collect foreign intelligence information from service providers under court supervision. The authority, he said, was created by the Congress in 2008 and has been widely known and publicly discussed.
Earlier this week, Clapper declassified certain aspects of a law to defend a newly disclosed National Security Agency program that gathers telephone records of tens of millions of Verizon customers, authorized under a secret court order.
McClatchy Washington Bureau