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June 19, 2013

Around the nation

NSA director defends surveillance program

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. foiled a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange because of the sweeping surveillance programs at the heart of a debate over national security and personal privacy, officials said Tuesday at a rare open hearing on intelligence led by lawmakers sympathetic to the spying.

The House Intelligence Committee hearing provided a venue for officials to defend the once-secret programs and did little probing of claims that the collection of people’s phone records and Internet usage has disrupted dozens of terrorist plots. Few details were volunteered.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, said the two recently disclosed programs — one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism — are critical. But details about them were not closely held within the secretive agency. Alexander said after the hearing that most of the documents accessed by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, were on a web forum available to many NSA employees. Others were on a site that required a special credential to access. Alexander said investigators are studying how Snowden did that.

He told lawmakers Snowden’s leaks have caused “irreversible and significant damage to this nation” and undermined the U.S. relationship with allies.

When Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce was asked what is next for Snowden, he said, simply, “justice.” Snowden fled to Hong Kong and is hiding.

Military has schedule for women to move into combat jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top general says cultural, social and behavioral concerns may be bigger hurdles than physical fitness requirements for women looking to move into the military’s special operations units.

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