Obama Defends Electronic Surveillance, Claims “Modest” Privacy Invasion


President Obama defended the National Security Agency’s stockpiling of Americans’ phone call logs and access to foreigners’ e-mail and other data from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and other companies, the New York Times reports. He argued that “modest encroachments on privacy” — including keeping records of phone numbers called and the length of calls that can be used to track terrorists — were “worth us doing” to protect the nation. The programs, he said, were authorized by Congress and regularly reviewed by federal courts.

Privacy advocates questioned the portrayal of the intrusion on Americans' communications as modest. When Americans communicate with a targeted person overseas, the program can vacuum up and store for later searching — without a warrant — their calls and e-mails. Obama acknowledged he had hesitations when he inherited the program from George W. Bush, but told reporters he soon became convinced of its necessity. “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.”

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