Mike McConnell, who advises President Bush directly on security issues, said in an article in the New Yorker that privacy will have to take a back seat in the name of security.
McConnell gave details of a proposed cyber-security policy which will closely police internet activity.
Lawrence Wright, the article's author, claimed that Ed Giorgio, a former chief code breaker at the National Security Agency who is working with McConnell on the plan, had told him that this would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any email, file transfer or web search.
"Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation," said Wright. "Giorgio warned me that 'privacy and security are a zero-sum game'."
McConnell, who keeps a clock on his desk counting down the seconds of the Bush presidency, admitted that the plans would be a tough sell to the legislature but insisted that they are necessary.
"My prediction is that we are going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens," he told Wright.
Wright suggested that this kind of monitoring is already going on. He spoke to an AT&T employee, Mark Klein, who claimed that he installed data switching systems in the company's exchange that copied all internet traffic to the National Security Agency.
"I know that whatever went across those cables was copied and the entire data stream was copied," said Klein. "We are talking about domestic as well as international traffic."
He added that previous claims by the Bush administration that only international communications were being intercepted are not accurate.
"I know the physical equipment, and I know that statement is not true," said Klein. "It involves millions of communications, a lot of it domestic communications that they are copying wholesale."
US spy chief puts security over privacy
By Iain Thomson on Jan 16, 2008 7:07AM