The head of the US National Security Agency has countered claims that his organisation collected phone data on millions of Europeans, describing them as completely false.
During a Congressional committee hearing General Keith Alexander went on to say the NSA acts within the law to stop militant attacks and works closely with America’s NATO allies.
“The sources of the metadata include data legally collected by NSA under its various authorities, as well as data provided to NSA by foreign partners. To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens,” Alexander said.
The NSA chief’s comments come against the backdrop of angry European accusations that the US spies on their leaders.
The loudest protests have come from Germany over reports that the US bugged Chancellor Merkel’s phone.
German MEP Elmar Brok said a line must be drawn on who is a legitimate target for the spies: “Never spy on your friends. Everything to do with spying in the classical sense, be it in embassies, be it against political leaders, politicians, whomsoever, everything must be agreed together. When it comes to listening to normal citizens, this should not be accepted anymore under a general agreement.”
The spying rift has been sparked by the leaking of highly classified documents by a former NSA contractor. The US Congress is now considering legislative proposals limiting NSA electronic intelligence programmes.