Spy program gathered Americans' Internet records

WASHINGTON (AP) — Documents disclosed Thursday show that the Obama administration gathered U.S. citizens' Internet data until

2011, continuing a spying program started under President George W. Bush that revealed who Americans exchanged emails with

and the Internet Protocol address of their computer.

The National Security Agency ended the

program that collected email logs and timing, but not content, in 2011

because it did

not do what was needed to stop terrorist attacks, according to the

NSA's director. Gen. Keith Alexander, who also heads the

U.S. Cyber Command, said all data was purged at that time.

The Guardian newspaper on Thursday released documents detailing the collection, though the program was also described earlier

this month by The Washington Post.

The latest revelation follows previous leaks

from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is presumed hiding at a

Moscow airport

transit area, waiting to hear whether Ecuador, Iceland or another

country might grant him asylum. He fled Hong Kong over the

weekend and flew to Russia after being charged with violating

American espionage laws.

The collection appears similar to the

gathering of U.S. phone records, and seems to overlap with the Prism

surveillance program

of foreigners on U.S. Internet servers, both revealed by Snowden.

U.S. officials have said the phone records can only be checked

for numbers dialed by a terrorist suspect overseas.

Alexander said at a Baltimore conference on cybersecurity that the NSA decided to kill the Internet data gathering program

because "it wasn't meeting what we needed and we thought we could better protect civil liberties and privacy by doing away

with it."

He said the program was conducted under provisions of the Patriot Act, and that NSA leaders went to the Obama administration

and Congress with the recommendation to shut it down.

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, said the program has not resumed.

The IP address is the specific numeric address assigned to a computer connected to the Internet.

The Guardian reported that some collection continues, authorized as recently as December 2012, but the newspaper only published

documents detailing the earlier program started under Bush in 2001.

The Washington Post had described the

Internet surveillance in an earlier report, without publishing the

documents or releasing

as many details. The Post described it as part of four secret

surveillance programs — two aimed at phone and Internet metadata,

while two more target contents of phone and Internet

communications.

The records show who they exchanged emails with and the Internet Protocol address of their computer. That's the specific numeric

address assigned to a computer connected to the Internet.