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U.S. senators plan to review NSA role in British webcam spying

U.S. senators plan to review NSA role in British webcam spying
President Barack Obama called for a revamping of U.S. surveillance procedures during a speech at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC on January 17, 2014. The president's announcement came after a White House review following leaks regarding secret surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA). UPI/Aude Guerrucci/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- British intelligence showed a "breathtaking lack of respect" for privacy by scooping on webcam transmissions, three U.S. senators said in a statement.

Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday they will investigate whether the U.S. National Security Agency was involved, the Guardian reported.

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The newspaper reported Thursday, based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British agency involved in electronic monitoring, used NSA computer programs to analyze screen grabs of webcam chats of Yahoo users.

The program, given the title Optic Nerve, tried to use facial recognition software to find potential intelligence targets.

"We are extremely troubled by today's press report that a very large number of individuals -- including law-abiding Americans -- may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing," the senators said. "If this report is accurate it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens."

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The Internet Association, a trade group that includes most of the major players, issued a statement Friday calling for changes in the monitoring of online activity.

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