'This Week' Transcript: NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander

Look at where this came from. And I think you heard part of the testimony on Tuesday, as you'd mentioned, in 2001, Midar (ph), who was in California, the intelligence community didn't know that. We weren't able to connect those dots.

So these programs are helping us connect the dots. I think that's very important to have the tools of this.

We can argue over which dot is the most important. But at the end of the day, we didn't have enough information to connect those dots. And I think working with FBI, CIA and others, our job is to get that information.

If we're going to defend the information, we need the intelligence to do it.

Now here's the key: I think another important point, George, on this, look at the information that we're collecting.

In 2012, less than 300 selectors were approved for reasonable, articulable suspicion that we could look at in that database. So it is a very small set. Two-thirds of those are foreign. One-third were in the U.S.

Now of those one-third, note that we treat all phones inside the U.S. as U.S. persons. So in this case when we talked about the 2009 case of Zazi, he was in Colorado. That is considered a U.S. person. So for -- from our perspective, tracking those people is the most important thing we can do.

Here's what's in the balance: over 50 cases globally, over 10 in the United States. These two capabilities helped us form the dots. I think that's what the American people want us to do. And note that they did not -- we have not, in a single case, had a place where a government official engaged in a willful effort to circumvent or violate the law.

Zero times have we done that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it from my perspective --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- when you talk about this tracking, the president told Charlie Rose this week that the -- what he could say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls. And understand that under the 215 program, you don't listen to the phone calls.

But is that statement correct? I would assume -- and tell me if I'm wrong here, that if the NSA (inaudible) tracking someone, say, in Cuba or someone overseas, who then calls the United States, you're going to listen to that phone call, correct?

ALEXANDER: Right. You're asking a different set of questions.

So let me put, first of all, the prime directive on the table. The FISA law makes it clear: in order for the NSA to target the content of a U.S. persons communications, anywhere in the world -- anywhere -- NSA requires probable cause and a court order, a specific court order.

So if we're targeting outside the U.S. a terrorist, and they happen to talk to a U.S. person inside the United States, yes, we would follow that law.

In the minimization procedures that I think were leaked earlier this week, talk about the responsibilities that we have now have with respect to those U.S. persons. And we follow those. We train our people how to do this right.

We get oversight by Justice; we get oversight by the courts. We get oversight by the administration and by Congress, all three parts of government.

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