The US National Security Agency (NSA) may publish transparency reports on the amount of surveillance it is doing, its deputy director has revealed at the TED 2014 conference in Vancouver, Canada.
NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett spoke to the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference via video link as whistleblower Edward Snowden had done earlier.
He said Snowden’s revelations had opened up a global debate about the "balance between secrecy and transparency" that the NSA will engage with fully, reports the BBC.
"There is a proposal to release transparency reports in the same way as the internet companies are doing," said Ledgett, admitting that the NSA needed to be more transparent about its processes.
However, he emphasised that all the work the agency does has been approved by the president, federal judges and Congress, and defended the Prism programme as “hugely relevant” to disrupting terrorism.
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Ledgett accused Snowden of putting people's lives at risk by letting "the bad guys" know the NSA's methods, making them harder to find.
He said that the NSA needs access to the global telecommunications system to monitor the activities of terrorists, traffickers and enemy states.
Ledgett said it is inevitable that agents will "encounter people going about their business" but the NSA uses what he called "minimisation procedures" to ensure little information is read.
He also accused Snowden of misrepresenting the character of the NSA’s operations and falsely suggesting that they compromise the private communications of law-abiding citizens, reports Forbes.
“We don’t sit there and grind out metadata profiles of average people,” Ledgett said. “If you’re not connected to one of those intelligence targets, you’re not of interest to us.”
On the fate of Snowden, who is currently in exile in Russia, he said: "There is a tradition in American jurisprudence of having discussions with people who have committed crimes. There is always room for discussion."
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