President Obama Defends NSA Surveillance Programs As “Right Balance”

President Barack Obama issued a strong statement in support Friday for the controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs.

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President Barack Obama issued a strong statement in support Friday for the controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs that have been disclosed to the press in recent days.

“You can shout Big Brother or program run amok, but if you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance,” Obama said in his first remarks on the subject since the issue arose this week.

(VIDEO: President Obama Says No One Is Listening to Your Phone Calls)

Obama repeated details that administration had put out about the programs after reports by the Guardian and the Washington Post put two classified programs into the spotlight. The first involves U.S. officials gathering records on all phone calls, including call duration and phone numbers, to look for patterns that can be tied to terrorist activity. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama said repeatedly. “That’s not what this program is about.

Obama said that a second program collecting global internet traffic only applies to foreigners. “This does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people in the United States,” he said.

Both programs, the president maintained, are overseen by all three branches of the federal government, are reviewed regularly by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and have been in place since the administration of President George W. Bush.

“It is important to understand that your duly elected representatives have been consistently informed on exactly what we are doing,” Obama told reporters before flying to Los Angeles for a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. Obama will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Rancho Mirage, Calif., this weekend for an informal summit.

Obama, who ran for president in 2008 on a platform of reversing some of the Bush administration’s encroachments on civil liberties, instead defended the programs. “I came in with a healthy skepticism about these program,” Obama said, noting his administration has strengthened some program safeguards. “My assessment and my team’s assessment is that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

“You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he continued. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society. On balance we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should be comfortable about.”

Obama also addressed growing outrage on Capitol Hill about the programs. “I welcome this debate. I think it’s healthy for our democracy. It’s a sign of maturity.”

The president, whose administration has led a crackdown on government leakers, also condemned the release of classified information about the programs, saying they make it “very hard for us to be as effective in protecting the American people.”

“If people don’t trust the executive branch, and also congress and the judicial branch, then we’re going to have some problems here,” Obama admitted.

103 comments
OldFashionedLiberal
OldFashionedLiberal

Maybe it would be the right balance for Nazi Germany, the Stalinist USSR or the Maoist PRC, but it's not conducive to American liberties.

Our government is at least as dangerous to its citizens as the pathetic remnants of al-Qaeda!

barneydidit
barneydidit

When a group of Republicans author a bill that mandates individuals carry their own health insurance, it's considered a sign of "individual responsibility", and is supported by Republicans everywhere, including The Heritage Foundation. When Obama does it it's bad.

When a group of Republicans author bills that allow the government to eavesdrop on its citizens in an effort to curtail terrorist activities, it's considered a sign of patriotism. When Obama does it, it's bad. 

reallife
reallife

”Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”
Ben Franklin

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

I am going to need to wiretap Obumbly's private cell phone to find out his real thoughts on this or any issue.

ThaTutsta
ThaTutsta

The Communist Republic of Whackomerica!

ChristianMan
ChristianMan

Whatever party is in power, the globalists agenda goes on...

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Why are people pretending this is something new and President Obama invented it?

manlyman
manlyman

When Obama does it it's bad. Correct. You're finally getting it.

ishigidydigidy
ishigidydigidy

Of course you'd try to turn it into something so simple as a left/right issue.  Stop being so blind, this is an issue of GOVERNMENT, not republican or democrat.  This is a DISEASE that's infected in out political/social system.  Stop trying to fight left and right, that's what they want.  If we keep fighting, they can keep doing what they want to do.  We need to stop, unite and fight back.

So yeah, keep bickering about left and right.  See how far that gets you.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@retiredvet As a Verizon customer, I immediately clicked on this. Thanks for sharing, retiredvet. It's good to know where President Obama and Verizon stand with respect to this controversy.

jmac
jmac

@reallife Realife - do me a favor and call my senators - Cornyn and Cruz - and tell them you want them to gut the section of the Patriot Act that gives a president the right to do what Bush and Obama did.  

Because the Patriot Act is a Republican act.  If you don't like it, you'll need Republican votes to change it.  Is that too difficult for you to understand?  Spouting patriotic jingoism doesn't get us anywhere.  Call Republicans senators and get the ball rolling. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@reallife Then why did you give up your liberty when these programs were originally implemented by the last administration?

tommyudo
tommyudo

@ChristianMan 


That's the entire point that the Obama Derangement Syndrome crowd of the Right don't get. This is not a Left/Right issue. Obama, Bush, Clinton, it just doesn't matter who the transient resident in the WH is. The beat goes on in our National Security State, and will go on with the next Clinton in office.

Dachman
Dachman

He did state that all of this would end and he would not allow it but that was 2007 now he is in his 2nd term...no need to placate the masses.

paulejb
paulejb

@Hollywooddeed 

Obama invents nothing new. He just doubles down on it whether it's spending, expansion of government or abuse of power. 

jmac
jmac

@ishigidydigidy - Ishigid - we are a partisan nation.   We ARE REd States and Blue States.   We can do nothing without members holding hands.   Yes, Rand Paul is upset about this, but Rubio isn't and  when the rubber hits the road, will Rand Paul cross over to do something about it?   If he does, he'll be in a very small minority of Republicans (possibly of one) willing to do so.  

Keep ignoring reality and see how far that gets you.   Nothing's going to be done on immigration until the mid-terms, and if Republicans take seats, nothings going to be done after the mid-terms.   That's reality. 


TyPollard
TyPollard

@ishigidydigidy 

I and millions and millions of other Americans prefer the ACA over the system we had. Many wished it had been a single  payer system but ACA SHOULD have been supported by centrist Republicans and centrist Democrats with the begrudgingly by the more pragmatic of the progressive wing of the Democratic party.


therealdude
therealdude

@tommyudo @ChristianMan I've long since said the same thing. I'm not defending Obama's position on this but Hillary, McCain and Romney all supported it also. For all the people who this issue matters, which should be more than it is, you don't really have a choice in presidential elections.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@mantisdragon91 @ChristianMan 

Bush senior was shot down in WW2 and was nearly eaten by a cannibal Japanese warlord had he chose the wrong island,

But when it comes to Bush;s wartime record it is platinum

therealdude
therealdude

@Dachman He didn't say that about the domestic spying. I remember this well because in 2008, I emailed his campaign more than 10 times requesting his stance on it and they never once gave me an answer.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@Dachman I tend to view campaign rhetoric from both sides with skepticism.  Did you believe the numerous whoppers GW Bush told during his 2000 campaign?

manlyman
manlyman

Us conservatives accuse him of sympathyizing with Islamic radicals, not the current GOP. They are too busy "compromising" and apologising. And don't pull out the old "but he killed Bin Laden" thing, cuz we all know he had no choice but to give the go ahead on that one. Were it totally up to him Osama would still be alive.

ChristianMan
ChristianMan

The Jesuits secret war against freedom started in the Dark Ages of Europe and now widespread in the USA.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@manlyman Yep they were so scared that the Tea Party logos were preloaded since 2002 just waiting for a democrat to regain office.

manlyman
manlyman

I think it's more a case of them knowing what he was going to do, (because he said it) and the fundamental changing of America rhetoric scared them, as it should have scared EVERY American citizen right left and in between. Anyone who can look at this country nowadays and feel confidence in the direction it's heading, has got to have a screw loose or worse.

manlyman
manlyman

Wow! That dead horse! Again! The typical dishonesty gene that just thrives in the mind of a liberal. Crap, and they know it's crap, but it's all they've got.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@Hollywooddeed @paulejb That's why all the Tea Party protests started on April 15, 2009, because Obama had had 85 days in office and hadn't *fixed everything* yet...

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@paulejb @Hollywooddeed Well, cupcake, it's expensive to clean up a crashed economy (in 2008, under Bush, before the election), two unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare part D.  Or did you think the economy would start over on January 20, 2009?

therealdude
therealdude

@mantisdragon91 YES! That right there is the REAL issue. I don't think anyone objects to the NSA monitoring calls and communications going to a suspicious location or communications of people who are legitimately suspected of being terrorists.

But it's the blank check that these laws give that just screams "screw your rights, we can do anything we want." It's dangerous to our democracy and full of potential for abuse.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@mantisdragon91 @Paul,nnto @Hollywooddeed  The healthiest part of our collective DNA is a distrust of government overreach.

It is supervised now, isn't it? A cowed Congress and a secret court sign off. 

What I always go back to is that executive power is never rolled back. That's why it doesn't matter who is in the Oval Office.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@manlyman You mean like when Bush had Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora and let him escape into Pakistan? Funny how fools like you call him an Islamist sympathizer while at the same time complaining why he is killing so many of them with drones.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb @mantisdragon91 Yep he spooked us into becoming the world's biggest debtor while illegally arming Iran and financing death squads killing nuns in Nicaragua.

paulejb
paulejb

@mantisdragon91 @paulejb 

Not Ronnie. He spooked the commies in the Kremlin into a total collapse. I believe it was the firing of the striking air traffic controllers that first set the commies back on their heels.