NSA Official: NATO Allies Helped Collect European Phone Records

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The director of the National Security Agency disputed foreign press reports that the U.S. has not collected millions of phone calls in France, Spain, and Italy, saying Tuesday that those reports arose for the misreading of documents stolen by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

“The assertions by reporters in France (Le Monde), Spain (El Mundo), and Italy (L’Espresso) that NSA collected tens of millions of phone calls are completely false,” said Gen. Keith Alexander, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. “To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”

Alexander said that the media outlets and their source “did not understand what they were looking at.”

“They cite as evidence screen shots of the results of a web tool used for data management purposes. . . . The web tool counts metadata records from around the world and displays the totals in several different formats,” said Alexander. “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.”

According to Le Monde and El Mundo, more than 70 million phone calls in France and 60 million phone calls in Spain, respectively, were collected by the NSA between early December 2012 and early January 2013. L’Espresso magazine said that Snowden’s documents reveal U.S. and U.K. invasive monitoring of Italian telecom networks.