Leaked documents show US widened Internet spying: NYT – Reuters


WASHINGTON Documents leaked by Edward Snowden show that the U.S. government has widened the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic in the hunt for hackers, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The classified documents came from Snowden, the former NSA contractor who lives as a fugitive in Russia, and were shared with the Times and the investigative journalism non-profit ProPublica, the newspaper reported.

Justice Department lawyers wrote in mid-2012 two secret memos allowing the NSA to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and inside the United States, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad, the Times reported, citing the documents. It said the data included traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware.

The disclosure of the documents come as U.S. financial institutions, businesses and government agencies are increasingly being targeted in cyberattacks, the Times noted.

The Times reported that the Justice Department permitted the NSA to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures,” patterns tied to computer intrusions, that it could link to foreign governments. But the documents showed that the spy agency sought to target hackers even when it could not establish links to foreign countries.

Brian Hale, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was quoted by the Times as saying, “It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate U.S. networks and steal the private information of U.S. citizens and companies.”

Hale also was quoted as saying that “targeting overseas individuals engaging in hostile cyberactivities on behalf of a foreign power is a lawful foreign intelligence purpose.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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