President Obama Defends NSA Spying, Says Americans Aren’t Targeted

    June 7, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

To put it lightly, the Internet blew up last night on the news that the NSA has tapped into data belonging to pretty much every major tech company. It’s alleged that the spy agency works with these companies to sift through all of their data looking for traces of foreign threats. That’s all well and dandy, but it just so happens to be a massive infringement of the Fourth Amendment.

So, what does our commander-in-chief think about all of this? President Obama says that the programs in question – wiretapping of wireless carriers and PRISM – are real, but he added that all the safeguards listed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are in effect. In fact, he says that his own administration expanded oversight and the safeguards when he took office in 2008.

I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them, we scrubbed them thoroughly, 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. And the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers and duration without a name attached and without looking at content — that on net, was worth us doing. Some other folks may have a different assessment of that.

As for the NSA collecting metadata from calls made through Verizon, Obama assures that the spy agency isn’t listening to your phone calls. They’re only interested in the phone numbers and duration of calls:

When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people’s names and they’re not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called ‘metadata,’ they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism. If the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.

In the end, Obama said that the issue of NSA spying is best left up to Congress and judges. He confirmed that members of Congress are briefed on these programs, and that they could put a stop to it if those members felt that any abuse was taking place. He also suggested that some of these issues could be taken to the courts for federal judges to decide.

President Obama seems to have forgotten, however, that both of those scenarios played out last year to no avail. Privacy advocates were hoping the Supreme Court would see their side in Hepting v. AT&T – a class-action lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of a FISA amendment that grants immunity to any telecom company providing information to the government. The courts sent it back to the lower courts. Now the EFF is fighting to have the Supreme Court hear Jewel v. NSA – a case that challenges the constitutionality of warrantless spying.

As for Congress, the FISA reauthorization debate from last year proved that most members of Congress don’t give a damn about your privacy. To this, Obama says it’s your fault – “These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress, and they’re being fully briefed on these programs”

[h/t: The Verge]
  • http://www.willwebb.ca Will Webb

    “When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.” Yeah, right, it’s more like “we are only listening if and when we want to, for whatever reasons we deem necessary.”

    The government is getting out of hand, and citizens need to step up and say something has a whole before it’s too late.

    • http://kopimstsamfundet.ca Agni

      What he means is they have a robot program in place and record everything to be analyzed. There are around 6 cities in USA, including San Francisco, that have incorporated transit Buses a system that record conversations and keep them for 30 days. The microphones spread in the bus send via wifi a stream to a server installed near the driver. It is time the international community should demand demand USA follow its Own Constitution. the world must stop regarding this, once great nation, now neither a democracy or a free country.

  • Name

    To this, Obama says it’s your fault – “These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress, and they’re being fully briefed on these programs.”

    The president is looking out for the people and blames congress.
    Congress isn’t looking out for the people and blames the president.
    The courts aren’t looking out for the people. In fact, we have the highest rate of incarceration ever in this nation, surpassing that of the Gulag era under Stalin.

    So who exactly is looking out for the people?

  • Bill

    Probably every government known to man has spied on its people.
    We still have a few rights and more than most countries, but the Tower of London is a reminder what happens when governments oversteps their bounds.

  • Chad

    Oh god… I find this hysterical. Everyone gets all worked up over nothing. For years everyone has known but nobody has cared that these business were already collecting data on their consumers and creating profiles to try and target you for profit. All of a sudden people care because the Government is accessing some of this information to target a whole new world of terrorism. If it was 10 years ago when everyone was freaked out over 911 nobody would care. Now all of a sudden we care… But there are SERIOUS threats to the USA that you really have no idea about. Just wait til a nuclear bomb goes of in a major US city and every freaks and wonders why we did try harder to prevent something like this. Watch out people, these threats are more then real. It’s sobering. I am thrilled to know the NSA is doing this.

    • Name

      What serious threats?

      Show me all the terrorists. Put them on public trial. Don’t just shot them and not release photos. Don’t lock them away and not show the world.

      The reality is that if that there are so many high value targets in our nation that if there really were terrorists plotting our demise, we would have attacks nearly every day.

      You have a better chance of getting robbed and shot by a street gang member than you do of getting killed by a terrorist.

  • Steve Klaus

    This is a very serious matter. The fact is anything you put in a cloud or leave on an email server is accessible by the government without a warrant or notice to the ‘owner’ of the photos, documents, email et al. Under current US law, whatever is found can be turned over to other US (or even foreign – think UK) government agencies and it does NOT have to be counter terror related. It is childish to say ‘well, I have nothing to hide to so cares’ – the point is that under current US law an email printed and kept in your home desk drawer has much more legal protection than that same email on iCloud or GMail. A warrant would be needed for the government to retrieve that mail from your desk – but you won’t even know when that same email is retrieved and used against you sitting on the iCloud mail server. Big Brother is here and bigger than George Orwell even imagined.

    • Name

      Out of fear of losing our way of life …. we will give up our way of life.

      So many people are afraid today. It is sad.

  • lier

    Obama remember who is really in power not the government but the people also keep your a.. out of people privacy we are not your little kids are terrorists under the patriots act which failed to even work less then 1% were actual terrorist. So we know your lieng about it actually helped a bit of national security and we deserve s ok what about y’all don’t y’all deserve punishment for all the innocent life’s taken cough Iraq or interrogating little 6 year olds. To me gov needs a a.. wiping. Stop doing this bull an.. if gov did what they were suppose to do people wouldn’t need to do go around leaking things were not asking whats in area 51 but like why are we really in Afghanistan or why wasn’t Bush punished not impeachment but a real prison and if u are taking innocent lives just tell us apologize and with that army making them killers if they don’t want to quite that bull shit that’s savage stop using people for your f..k ups and I know that has to be more with this Korea thing going on Obama you are giving black people a bad name and instead of spending millions on spy use sh..t for social security and debts and job creation I’m pretty sure its time for government to take in fiscal and monetary policy right about know

  • lier

    16* not 6 there’s a video

  • John

    Zero is an epic liar. Most un-transparent president in US history.

  • John

    Liberties are under threat, especially under the department of homeland. The people need to be listened to, and governments must listen. Governments are there to serve, not to be served. Totally agree with the poster about cloud services. They are not to be trusted. Nor are all the big names, Microsoft, Google, Apple etc. It is high time that we the people stand up to them, perhaps with some good old fashioned civil disobedience.

  • http://www.onlinetv.com Randy Penn

    The whole system is corrupt. It is a fraud to be offered 2 candidates that each are evil, maybe one less evil to ones perception than the other, but both are evil. Having only evil or less evil to choose from is no choice at all. Even in the last presidential election the only candidates worth anything were no allowed to debate the two corporate shills of the big parties. Obama is right though, we allow this corruption to continue and they have made protest illegal. Only corporations who ask governments permission are allowed protest permits. Now what protest worth its salt asks permission from those they protest? The other thing holding back any real change is the education system geared to creating drone like children taught to conform to the norm created by the power clique. We are in a real predicament whose only alternative is something we have not done in over 200 years. A look at history shows no governments remained good for long and all governments had been overthrown for their evil sooner or later.

    Government MUST be afraid of the people or they will do whatever they want, as we see the evil and it’s justification for evil right now in our lives. What will we do about it?

  • yosri

    That is why China want to remove Internet server to their country, so they can do the same.

  • http://www.nsaspying.com craigwilson

    @mitchellc what are you talking about? this was already exposed in 2008 by actor Shia Lebueof at nsaspying.com

  • http://makeuptipsntricks.com Janey Spencer

    So should I be worried about this or not? It seems that each day there is some degree of row back by the big guys with Google (for example) flat out denying NSA have the kind of access reported.

    Your also right CraigWilson that this latest expose (should I be calling it a scandal yet) is not new and has been hinted at or downright stated on previous occasions.

    I have to believe that if I’m innocent I’ve nothing to worry about as the number crunching involved in this if true must be immense.

    Interesting that the Prez only thinks it’s a small interference in personal liberties…question is whether it’s the thin edge of the wedge or not

    Surprised more of our Allies aren’t asking what’s going on with their ISP’s telecom providers etc…it’s a two-way street after all……