NSA director: Programs work to protect America

Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander, U.S. Cyber Command and director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 12, 2013, before the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine cybersecurity, focusing on preparing for and responding to the enduring threat. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The director of the National Security Agency says he wants to provide as much public detail as possible on the agency's surveillance programs, arguing that they protect America while also guarding the public's civil liberties and privacy.

NSA director Keith Alexander told senators at a hearing Wednesday that he doesn't want to jeopardize national security but wants a public debate about the phone and email surveillance programs disclosed last week by a former NSA contractor.

Alexander was questioned at length by senators seeking information on exactly how much data the NSA collects and the legal backing for the activities.

He warned that disclosure of the secret programs will erode agency capabilities and, as a result, U.S. allies and Americans won't be as safe as they were two weeks ago.