Obama, NSA Spar on Cyber-Spying

NSA wants companies to watch Internet traffic for attacks
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2012 1:29 PM CST
The NSA wanted to monitor all Internet traffic for possible attacks.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The White House and the National Security Agency have repeatedly clashed over the NSA's efforts to fight cyberattacks, with the Obama administration arguing that they would impinge on Americans' privacy, the Washington Post reports. The most dramatic confrontation was over legislation proposed last year that would have forced Internet companies to continuously scan traffic for potential threats using NSA software, turning over suspicious data to the government. That proposal was eventually shelved, but then last month they clashed again, over a bill allowing any government agency to monitor any private computer network for threats.

White House officials say they've had to tell NSA head Keith Alexander to tone down his public comments on the matter, reminding him that President Obama officially opposes cybersecurity measures that undermine privacy. "If he's openly advocating for something beyond that, that is undermining the commander in chief," one official said. But Alexander says the NSA hasn't backed specific policies, merely outlined its expert opinion that to stop a major attack "you have to see it in real time, and you have to have those authorities." (Read more cyberattack stories.)

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