Reports on surveillance of Americans fuel debate over privacy, security

by Mark Hosenball and John Whitesides, Reuters  |  published on June 7, 2013

A photo illustration shows the Verizon wireless logos on a mobile phone screen in Encinitas
WASHINGTON | The debate over whether the government is violating citizens’ privacy rights while trying to protect them from terrorism escalated dramatically on Thursday amid reports that authorities have collected data on millions of phone users and tapped into servers at nine internet companies.

The White House spent much of the day defending the National Security Agency’s secret collection of telephone records from millions of Americans as a “critical tool” for preventing attacks, as critics called the program – first reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper – a heavy-handed move that raised new questions about the extent of the U.S. government’s spying on its citizens.

At day’s end, the flap over the NSA’s mining of data from customers of a subsidiary of Verizon Communications was overtaken by a Washington Post report that described an even more aggressive program of government surveillance.

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