After a pair of mass online and phone surveillance programs were revealed in two stunning reports, the National Security Agency has decided to go after whoever revealed them.
A Director of National Intelligence official confirmed to CBS News correspondent Major Garrett that the highly secretive NSA has asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak. Reuters described the formal request as a "crimes report."
The Obama administration has shown a pattern of aggressively going after leakers of highly sensitive information that it does not itself leak, even going so far as toreporting on them.
The first of the two leaks were reported in the Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper. They claimed to have information on a program collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order.
The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and was good until July 19, the Guardian said. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies, on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.
The second leak involved a top-secret arm of the controversial Stellar Wind program set up in the wake of 9/11 is allowing the National Security Agency and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine major Internet companies to extract audio, video, photos, emails and documents that let analysts track an individual's communication.
The program, called PRISM, was established in 2007, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story Thursday evening. It culls metadata from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and will soon include Dropbox.
Apple denied any involvement with the program. Google and Facebook also denied providing direct access to their servers and said they disclose user data only after careful scrutiny and in accordance with the law.
The nation's top intelligence official pushed back Saturday against the "myths" surrounding the disclosure of two classified government surveillance programs, saying the government cannot gather data on Americans' phone use and foreigners' Internet use without the permission of a specialized court, and that all three branches of government rigorously oversee the programs in question.
The two explosive stories this week were "reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement.
"Our ability to discuss these activities is limited by our need to protect intelligence sources and methods," Clapper said. "However, there are significant misimpressions that have resulted from the recent articles."
The DNI released a fact sheet (PDF) that he hoped would "dispel some of the myths and add necessary context to what has been published."