Obama Gives Testy Defense of 'Modest Encroachments on Privacy'
President Obama gave a rambling defense of NSA spying on Americans at what was supposed to be an ObamaCare event today, telling reporters "it's important to recognize that you can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience."
Speaking at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif., Obama lauded Spanish-media promotion of ObamaCare in the state and told Republicans in the House to stop voting to repeal the law "and start working with people like the leaders who are on stage here today to make this law work the way it's supposed to."
After a lengthy defense of ObamaCare, Obama opened the floor for "one question" -- and was asked for his reaction on reports of broad surveillance of Americans' phones and Internet.
"The programs that have been discussed over the last couple of days in the press are secret in the sense that they're classified, but they're not secret in the sense that, when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," the president said.
Only congressional leadership and the intelligence committees, though, are traditionally briefed on sensitive intelligence matters.
"With respect to all these programs, the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs. These are programs that have been authorized by broad bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006," Obama continued. "And so I think at the outset it's important to understand that your duly-elected representatives have been consistently informed on exactly what we're doing."
Trying to break down the separate issues, the president said "when it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls."
"That's not what this program's about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism," he said. "...So I want to be very clear: Some of the hype that we've been hearing over the last day or so, nobody's listening to the content of people's phone calls."