Challenged by Merkel on spying, Obama says lives have been saved

Challenged personally by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about American intelligence programs that monitor foreigners' communications without individualised court orders, President Obama said Wednesday in Berlin that German terrorist threats were among those foiled by such operations worldwide.

"We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information, not just in the United States but in some cases here in Germany," Obama said during a news conference. "So lives have been saved."

Merkel, who acknowledged that Germany has received "very important information" from the US, cited the so-called "Sauerland cell" as an example of such antiterrorism intelligence cooperation.

"Although we do see the need," Merkel said, such activities must be balanced by "due diligence" to guard against unwarranted invasions of privacy. "Free democracies live off people having a feeling of security," she added.

Obama, repeating defenses he has made to Americans, said, "This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary e-mails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else."

Sitting expressionless but seeming to listen intently, Merkel replied, "It's necessary for us to debate these issues. People have concerns."

Their exchanges, in private at the start of his state visit and later at a joint news conference, preceded Obama's speech to an estimated 6,000 people at the Brandenburg Gate, near where the Berlin Wall once stood.

NSA spying foiled terror plot around CWG 2010

Washington: The controversial secret cyber spying programme run by America's National Security Agency foiled more than 50 potential terrorist plots in as many as 20 countries, including India.

"The plot included a previously undisclosed plan to blow up the New York Stock Exchange," according to the testimony of NSA chief General Keith Alexander before the House Intelligence Committee. He did provide further details of terrorist plots "disrupted." Informed sources, however, told PTI that India was among those 20 countries and the time frame of at least one such India-related plot indicate it was around the successful Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010.

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