A senior U.S. intelligence official says there are no plans to end spy programs that track phone and Internet messages around the world in the hope of thwarting terrorist threats, despite anger over them at home and abroad. German and European Union officials have issued complaints over the two National Security Agency programs.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Asked why the government grabbed the records of just about everyone in America in the search for terrorists, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells NBC News, "you have to start some place."

The leak is drawing attention to the role of private contractors in U.S. intelligence gathering. The government monitors threats to national security with the help of nearly half a million people like Edward Snowden -- employees of private firms who have access to the government's most sensitive secrets.

A former senior CIA official now a principal at Snowden's company, Booz Allen Hamilton, says the leak could lead intelligence agencies to reconsider their reliance on outside contractors.

 

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