President Obama delivered a passionate defense on Friday of national security programs that secretly acquire information about Americans’ phone calls, saying criticism of them is all ‘hype.’
‘My assessment and my team’s assessment was that [the programs] help us prevent terrorist attacks and that the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration [of calls] without a name attached… It was worth us doing.’
Obama made the remarks at a press conference in response to revelations about two separate programs used to spy on American citizens and foreign nationals. One program involves the collection of U.S. Verizon customers phone records. The other program – dubbed PRISM – allows the government to scour the Internet usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of nine U.S.-based internet providers such as Microsoft and Google.
‘I think it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,’ Obama said. ‘We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.’
Obama said the PRISM program does not involve monitoring the email content of U.S. citizens or anyone living in the U.S., and he repeatedly stated that both programs – the phone spying and PRISM – have been approved by Congress.