TODAY   |  June 09, 2013

Intelligence chief: Leaks are 'gut-wrenching'

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told NBC's Andrea Mitchell that the idea officials are "trolling" through citizens' emails is "absurd," and warned that adversaries will learn to circumvent newly leaked counterterrorism tactics.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the director of national intelligence , james clapper , wants americans to know where the obama administration stands when it comes to monitoring your phone calls and reading your e-mails. he sat down for an interview with andrea mitchell . she's with us from the washington, d.c. bureau. good morning.

>> good morning, erica. the director of national intelligence called the leaks of the " washington post " reckless. in an exclusive interview, james clapper vigorously defended the archiving of telephone calls as critical it national security . overseeing all 16 intelligence agencies , including the cia and nsa, james clapper says it's giventer rests a roadmap on how --

>> for me, it's literally gut wrenching to see this happen. because of the huge grave damage it does to our intelligence capabiliti capabilities.

>> how has it hurt american intelligence?

>> transparency has a double-edged swords. our adversaries, nefarious groups benefit from that same transparency. as we speak, they're going to school and learning how we do this. and so that's why it potentially has -- can render great damage to our intelligence capabilities.

>> at the same time, when americans woke up and learned because of these leaks that every single telephone call made in the united states is archived, people were astounded by that. they had no idea. they felt invaded.

>> i and everyone in the intelligence community are also citizens who care very deeply about our privacy and civil liberties . i certainly do. so the notion that we're trolling through everyone's e-mails and voier is particularly reading them orlisening to everyone's phone calls is on its face absurd. we couldn't do it if we wanted to.

>> clapper says two plots were averted in 2009 because of a law permitting foreign e-mails to be intercepted. one to bomb the new york city subway, led to the arrest and conviction of an afghan american . a second involved david hessly a u.s. citizen who confessed to planting the mumbai, india bombing. after riots over a cartoon insulting the muslims, plan to attack the news who published the cartoon.

>> in boston at the marathon, terrorists succeeded and not been thwarted despite all this information gathered by nsa.

>> that's true and i find it a little ironic that in several weeks ago after the boston bombings we were accused of not being sufficiently intrusive. we failed to determine the exact tipping point when the brothers self-radicalized. then it was we weren't intrusive enough.

>> clapper acknowledged mistakes. an incorrect digit of a phone number was archived exposing innocent callers to surveillance.

>> when twee discover errors which in all cases i'm familiar with were innocent and unintended, they are immediately corrected and any of the collection is destroyed.

>> some call the leaker to the washing post and the guardian a whistle blower. they describe him as a disgruntled intelligence officer.

>> we're all profoundly offended by that. this is someone who has chosen to violate a sacred trust. i hope we're able to track down whoever is doing this because it extremely damaging -- it affects the safety and security of this country.

>> clapper says the national security agency has asked for a criminal investigation to track down the leaker.

>> andrea, is there any indication that there will be changes in the way things are carried out moving forward?

>> yes, there are. i asked him about that. he said that at the request of dianne feinstein , the intelligence chair in the senate, he is reporting back to her within a month on how they could perhaps do this without such a large sweep, without vacuuming up so much information.

>> all right. we'll look for more of that in the next month. thanks.