Or, he was lying.
At a news conference Friday, President Obama insisted that the threat of NSA abuses was mostly theoretical:
If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.
What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].
Today our colleague Barton Gellman released new documents that contradicted Obama’s claims.
Much more at the link.
It turns out that the NSA did abuse its authority, it hid its abuses from the FISA court, and that court doesn’t even have the resources to oversee the NSA adequately and investigate allegations of wrongdoing. It even literally did listen in on phone calls.
The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court [...] The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.