Friday 7, 2012, President Obama defends the government’s recently disclosed collection of information from phone and internet records as necessary to combat terrorism and assured the American people, “Nobody is listening to your phone calls.”
On Wednesday evening, a document was leaked to the media that the National Security Agency was collecting phone records of hundreds of millions of American phone customers. The first report stated all of Verizon’s land and mobile customers were affected, but other phone companies were also included. On Thursday, another report was released that revealed the search of internet usage of foreign nationals overseas who use U.S. based internet providers
In President Obama’s first remarks regarding the large scale government surveillance, he stated that we cannot have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy with zero inconvenience.
“They help us prevent terrorist attacks,” said Obama.
Obama admits that upon entering office, he too had a healthy skepticism of the government’s surveillance program and has increased some of the safe guards on the program. Congress and federal judges oversee the program. According to Obama, a judge has to approve monitoring of the content of a call, it is not a program run amok.
“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch, but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here,” the president said.
Attempting to alleviate the worries and concerns of the people of this nation, Obama said, “They are not looking at people’s names and they are not looking at content, but by sifting through the so-called metadata they might identify potential leads of people who might engage in terrorism.”
On Thursday, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, denounced the leak of the highly classified documents that contained the information and cautioned that the security of America will suffer. Clapper stated that revealing this information will change the behavior of the enemy and make it difficult to understand their intentions.
“I believe it is important for the American People to understand the limits of this targeted counterterrorism program and the principles that govern its use,” he said.
Clapper then gave a detail explanation similar to that of President Obama’s and added that the articles regarding the Internet program was inaccurate and contained many errors.
Senior administration officials defended the program. Leaders of Congress’ intelligence panels stated that the program has been in operation for seven years and this was the standard 90 day renewal. Committee leaders stated that the program recently thwarted a potential domestic terrorist attack.
While many of the nation’s leaders appeared informed and not moved by the reports other than alarmed at the leak of such classified information, others voiced concern.
“When law-abiding Americans make phone calls, who they call, when they call and where they call from is private information,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “As a result of the disclosures that came to light today, now we’re going to have a real debate in the Congress and the country and that’s long overdue.”
“The National Security Agency’s seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon’s phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters’ phone records, it would appear that this administration has now sunk to a new low.”
This leak comes at a time when the Obama Administration is already experiencing a lot of skepticism regarding the actions of the Internal Revenue Service‘s inappropriate actions towards conservative groups, confiscation of journalist record’s to determine who leaked the information, and the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.
After the release of the information, the public scrutinized and denounced the actions of NSA. Consequently, the Justice Department, NSA, and FBI met with 27 senators late on Thursday evening to brief them on the situation.
After the meeting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Intelligence committee, said that the government collects information for intelligence to counteract plots and keep Americans safe. “That’s the goal. If we can do it another way, we’re looking to do it another way. We’d like to.”
By: Veverly Edwards