WASHINGTON – When the government went looking for phone numbers tied to terrorists, it grabbed the records of just about everyone in America.
That willingness to collect information on Americans with no ties to terrorism is making it hard for the Obama administration to tamp down controversy over a separate program to monitor Internet traffic.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the program, called PRISM, is narrowly focused and doesn't target Americans.
But civil rights groups say that, if the government can sweep up millions of phone records on innocent people in the hunt for terrorists, how can anyone know if a broad net isn't also cast into Internet traffic?
The National Security Agency is prohibited from specifically targeting Americans, but it's unclear how many American emails it gathers under PRISM.