WH: NSA not interested in 'personal information about Americans'

The White House on Wednesday insisted that the National Security Agency was not interested in "personal information about Americans" or conducting industrial espionage after The New York Times reported that the agency had installed monitoring software on nearly 100,000 computers around the world.

According to the Times report, the program uses radio technology to gain access to computers, even when they are not connected to the Internet. That allows U.S. intelligence agents to observe and alter information on the computer's hard drives.

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The spy technology is thought to be used primarily in attempts to thwart Chinese cyberattacks against the United States. According to the report, the software has also been used to target Russian military networks, Mexican drug cartels, and government and weapons programs in Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan and Iran.

White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to acknowledge the program, saying he would not discuss "specific tools and processes" employed by the agency. But he said the NSA operates under "heavy oversight" and said it only conducted national security missions.

“They’re not interested in the personal information about Americans nor are they using” technology for industrial espionage, the press secretary said.

A spokesman for the NSA told the Times that the agency's activities "are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements."

President Obama is slated to announce the results of a review of the nation's electronic intelligence practices on Friday at the Department of Justice.

Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president was "in the final stages of wrapping up” his assessment.

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