US Attorney General Eric Holder says the recent revelations about the spying operations of the National Security Agency (NSA) are "extremely damaging," vowing to punish severely the person behind the leak.
"The national security of the United States has been damaged as a result those leaks. The safety of the American people and the safety of people who reside in allied nations have been put at risk as a result of these leaks," Holder said at a US-European Union ministerial meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday.
He added, "We are presently in the process of that investigation, and I'm confident the person who is responsible will be held accountable."
Holder also defended the use of the electronic surveillance tool PRISM, claiming that the system is overseen by courts, strictly monitored and focused on wrongdoing such as terrorism.
"Only special cleared counter-terrorism personnel who are specifically trained in the court-approved procedures” have access to the records, he said, adding that “only a very small fraction of the records” are ever reviewed.
On June 6, the Guardian
revealed a top secret US court order that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect data on millions of Americans who are customers of the major US phone company, Verizon. Edward Snowden, a former technical worker for the CIA, has been revealed as the source of the leaks about US phone and internet surveillance.
According to the order, Verizon should “on a daily basis” give the NSA data, including phone numbers, location, and duration of all phone calls in its systems, both in the US and between the US and other countries.
On the same day, the Washington Post
also reported that the NSA had direct access to Internet servers, saying their source, a career intelligence officer, was horrified of the capabilities of the systems used by the top US spy agency.
Internet giants like Apple and Facebook denied claims that they opened their doors to US spy agencies.
The new revelation comes as Obama administration has been already under fire for secretly obtaining the phone records of the Associated Press journalists as well as the emails and phone records of a Fox News Channel reporter.