President Barack Obama staunchly defended a recently revealed National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program Friday, saying that the courts and Congress were well-informed of what was taking place.
Obama said the internet and telephone surveillance program struck the right balance between privacy and security.
His message: Trust my administration.
"The people involved in America's national security – they take this work very seriously," Obama said.
"The last thing they'd be doing is taking programs like this to listen to people's phone calls."
"You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience," he said. "We’re going to have to make some choices as a society."
Obama said his advisers concluded the programs were needed despite him being highly skeptical when he took office in 2009, according to The Washington Post.
"We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards. But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks."
He said that he welcomed mature debate about the subject.
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Obama, who spoke in San Jose, Calif. ahead of a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, insisted he had inherited the program from his predecessor.
"Every member of Congress has been briefed on the telephone program and the intelligence committees have been briefed on the Internet program, with both approved and reauthorized by bipartisan committees since 2006," the president said.
"If people don't trust Congress and the judiciary then I think we are going to have some problems here," Obama said.
Obama's critics weren't impressed.
“Every time he gets into trouble, he wants to have a debate, he wants to have a discussion….I think it’s his way — a distortion field created by his own moral rectitude,” Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition told Politico.
“It’s the same thing with the reporters [and leaks], he wants to have a guy who violated their civil liberties to have a discussion with the media.”
The Guardian broke the story Thursday that the NSA was collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers.
Hours later, the newspaper revealed a classified government program called PRISM that monitors the personal data of major internet companies' customers.
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