By MICHAEL GAY, Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) The National Security Agency says it’s not aware of how the agency collects and analyzes data from telecommunications companies.
The NSA, the agency charged with protecting the nation, has said in the past that it does not collect or store personal information on millions of Americans.
But in a statement to The Associated Press, the NSA said that while it does collect information on a daily basis, it has not “seen a concrete example of a clear requirement to turn over all such information to a third party.”
It said it’s working to develop a policy that requires telecommunications companies to turn their data over to the NSA.
A senior NSA official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agency hasn’t publicly addressed the issue publicly, said the agency has not been able to determine what steps the company has taken to address the issue.
The official also said the NSA is still working to figure out what specific steps the government might take in order to protect the privacy of its customers.
A recent internal NSA review found that telecommunications companies had not taken any steps to encrypt communications from the NSA or the FBI, and that the agency was still gathering vast amounts of data from companies, even though they were aware that such practices are not required by law.
The report was written in response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and was issued last month by the inspector general for the National Security Council, the highest level of government.
It found that the NSA does not have a policy requiring the government to encrypt data it is collecting, and said the issue has been “under examination for years.”
The inspector general also said that there is no requirement for the agency to make its collection of phone records and other electronic communications secret.
The inspector report also said it is unclear whether the NSA has been able or willing to work with other intelligence agencies to protect their information.
The White House has repeatedly called for an end to the collection of data on Americans without a warrant, saying that such surveillance is necessary to protect against terrorist attacks.
The government has denied the charge, saying the bulk collection of metadata is necessary for intelligence collection.
In its statement to the AP, the government said it has a “systemic and comprehensive privacy program” that “provides protection for the privacy and security of our customers and the security of the nation.”
The statement said that the government does not monitor the data that is collected.
The statement did not address what steps had been taken by telecommunications companies in order not to be collecting the data.
The issue of whether telecommunications companies can be compelled to hand over their customer data to the government comes as Congress considers legislation that would prohibit the government from requiring a warrant for telephone records.