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NSA website fault routine

October 26, 2013

The US National Security Agency has denied that its website was disabled by hackers, saying the outage was caused by a technical mistake. A worldwide furor surrounds the NSA over its vast surveillance operations.

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Image: imago/avanti

NSA tensions

On Saturday, the US agency accused of monitoring the phone calls of 35 international leaders claimed that an outage of its own website was caused by an erroneous update. The National Security Agency (NSA) site reappeared 8 hours later.

Earlier, a NSA spokesman rejected speculation on social networks that hackers might have staged a so-called "denial of service" attack.

"NSA.gov was not accessible for several hours tonight (Friday) because of an internal error that occurred during a scheduled update," he said.

The loosely organized international hacker collective Anonymous played down any role, saying ironically: "Don't panic. They have a backup copy of the internet."

Draft resolution to boost privacy

Disclosures from fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by media outlets internationally prompted Brazil and Germany on Friday to begin drafting a UN General Assembly resolution.

Its demand that excessive spying and invasions of privacy be ended follows complaints from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and most recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel over tapping of their communications, allegedly by the NSA.

Latin American and European diplomats quoted by the news agency Associated Press said Brazil and Germany were leading efforts to draft the resolution.

It would seek to expend privacy rights stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the 193-nation General Assembly it would be nonbinding but carry moral weight.

Build trust 'anew'

Last month, Rousseff called off a high-profile state visit to Washington. On Thursday, Merkel said trust had to be "built anew" after claims that her Berlin-based mobile phone was tapped by the US.

Germany on Friday said it would send a senior-level delegation to Washington next week to seek responses to a catalogue of questions it submitted months ago.

Washington contends that data interception is necessary to deter terrorism.

On Thursday, just ahead of a EU summit, Britain's Guardian newspaper said a confidential memo indicated that the NSA had monitored phone calls of 35 international leaders in 2006.

Accountability unchecked

Gordon Adams, a professor at American University who served in the administration of former US president Bill Clinton, said the Patriot Act and other laws adopted after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda aircraft hijackers "basically unleashed what we see today."

"In a climate of fear, we basically took the reins off of accountability for the intelligence community," Adams said.

Post-2001, Congress had "opened up a floodgate" and gave the NSA "immense running room," first under ex-president George W. Bush and then incumbent President Barack Obama, Adams told the news agency AFP.

In a commentary in Thursday's edition of USA Today, Lisa Monaco, one of Obama's homeland security advisors, however said US spy services had "more restrictions and oversight that any other country in history."

ipj/tj (AFP, Reuters, AP)