Obama came out in strong defense of NSA and FBI intelligence programs, including PRISM, after its existence was revealed to the public on Thursday.
This week has seen a string of leaks regarding US intelligence gathering practices, culminating in a series of slides from an internal NSA meeting regarding the top-secret PRISM program, leaked Thursday.
Reports are showing that a surprising number of tech and information companies, including Apple, Verizon, and Facebook have been tapped by government intelligence with covert requests and directives for user data.
Despite the out pour of new information on PRISM and US intelligence activities, Obama, in a statement made in San Jose, California Friday, believes the reporting is a lot of “hype” and has sought to reassure the public:
“[These programs are] under very strict supervision by all three branches of government and they do not involve listening to people’s phone calls, do not involve reading the e-mails of US citizens and US residents.”
Obama explains that after coming into office in 2009 he consulted with advisers and deliberated on the secret intelligence programs, eventually deciding to keep them in place:
“They may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.”
In response to critics who believe programs like PRISM may pose a danger to important civil liberties for US citizens, the president remarked:
“You can’t have one-hundred percent security and also then have one-hundred percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
President Obama then explained that although he believes there is good reason for the programs to have been classified, he welcomes the public discussion:
“I think it’s healthy for our democracy. I think it’s a sign of maturity.”
Obama’s unwavering defense of NSA and US intelligence activities like PRISM will likely do little to ease the uproar, already spreading across news outlets and online communities.