President Obama defends once-secret counterterrorism programs, such as NSA data-mining, and decries leaks, even as he welcomes public debate over how to balance security with civil liberties.
President Obama sought to reassure Americans that the government is not spying on them or unduly violating their civil liberties, after a spate of press leaks that exposed top-secret federal data-mining programs.
But in remarks to reporters Friday, the president also defended such programs as necessary for national security – and said he welcomed a public debate over the tradeoffs involved in keeping the public safe while also protecting privacy.
“I think it's important to recognize that you can't have a hundred percent security and also then have a hundred percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Mr. Obama said in San Jose, Calif., before heading to southern California to meet with China's president. “You know, we're going to have to make some choices as a society.”
His comments followed the second major leak this week about a classified government program aimed at thwarting terrorism. On Friday, the Washington Post published a story describing how the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading US Internet companies as they track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by the newspaper. A separate article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal discussed NSA data-mining of purchase information from credit-card companies.
On Wednesday, the British newspaper the Guardian exposed a top-secret court order that requires Verizon to provide the NSA with records on phone calls on an “ongoing, daily basis.” It has since come out that other telecommunications providers are subject to the same requirements, and that the 90-day orders are regularly renewed by a special court.