During an interview with Charlie Rose on Sunday, President Barack Obama said that the two National Security Agency programs that became public knowledge because of leaked secret documents were “transparent.” Obama also dismissed concerns that the programs were vulnerable to abuse by government officials.
“It is transparent,” Obama said. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1. And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at — because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”
Obama plans on meeting with the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to “structure a national conversation” about the programs. The president declined to comment about whether he thought NSA leaker Edward Snowden should be prosecuted. He also dismissed the notion that he was opposed to intelligence gathering while he was still a U.S. senator, ABC News reported.
“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney,’” Obama said. “My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather: Are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”
“We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place, that they have enough information about how we operate that they know that their phone calls aren’t being listened into; their text messages aren’t being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere. They’ve got to feel that confidence and that it is not potentially subject to abuse because there are sufficient checks and balances on it while still preserving our capacity to act against folks who are trying to do us harm.”
A portion of the broadcast is below: