The US's National Security Agency, the electronic eavesdropping body, has disclosed that its telephone and internet data collection is far greater than previously known in the face of unusually sharp congressional questioning.
The disclosures, and the more aggressive stance from members of the House judiciary committee, underlined how the NSA is losing support in a Congress which had initially largely backed the White House's defense of anti-terror surveillance.
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John Inglis, a deputy director of the agency, told a congressional panel that the NSA collected the data of not only people whom suspected foreign terrorists were talking to in the US, as they say they are authorized by law to do.
Mr Inglis, using the NSA's in-house jargon, said the agency could go "two or three hops" beyond, to the person originally contacted by the target, and to people they had contacted, and then one step further.
The NSA has previously said it traces connections with potential terror targets by only two degrees of separation.