Obama says Americans must learn to live with government spying on them

President Barack Obama gestures during a statment about the Affordable Care Act, Friday, June 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. Speaking about the NSA collecting of phone records, the president said`Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,' just numbers and duration. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama gestures during a statment about the Affordable Care Act, Friday, June 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. Speaking about the NSA collecting of phone records, the president said`Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,’ just numbers and duration. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama is urging Americans to “make some choices” in balancing privacy and security as he defends once-secret surveillance programs that sweep up an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and amass Internet data from U.S. providers in an attempt to thwart terror attacks.

Obama says it will be harder to detect threats against the U.S. now that the two top-secret tools to target terrorists have been so thoroughly publicized.

At turns defensive and defiant while speaking to reporters on Friday, Obama stood by the spy programs revealed this week.

The National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the U.S. It also was disclosed this week that the NSA has been gathering all Internet usage — audio, video, photographs, emails and searches — from nine major U.S. Internet providers, including Microsoft and Google, in hopes of detecting suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama assured the nation after two days of reports that many found unsettling. What the government is doing, he said, is digesting phone numbers and the durations of calls, seeking links that might “identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.”

If there’s a hit, he said, “if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.”

While Obama said the aim of the programs is to make America safe, he offered no specifics about how the surveillance programs have done that. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on Thursday said the phone records sweeps had thwarted a domestic terror attack, but he also didn’t offer specifics.

Obama asserted his administration had tightened the phone records collection program since it started in the George W. Bush administration and is auditing the programs to ensure that measures to protect Americans’ privacy are heeded — part of what he called efforts to resist a mindset of “you know, ‘Trust me, we’re doing the right thing. We know who the bad guys are.'”

But again, he provided no details on how the program was tightened or what the audit was examining.

The revelations have divided Congress and led civil liberties advocates and some constitutional scholars to accuse Obama of crossing a line in the name of rooting out terror threats.

Obama, himself a constitutional lawyer, strove to calm Americans’ fears but also to remind them that Congress and the courts had signed off on the surveillance.

“I think the American people understand that there are some trade-offs involved,” Obama said when questioned by reporters at a health care event in San Jose, Calif.

“It’s important to recognize that 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. And what I can say is that in evaluating these programs, they make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.”

Obama said U.S. intelligence officials are looking at phone numbers and lengths of calls — not at people’s names — and not listening in.

The two classified surveillance programs were revealed in newspaper reports that showed, for the first time, how deeply the NSA dives into telephone and Internet data to look for security threats. The new details were first reported by The Guardian newspaper of Britain and The Washington Post, and prompted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to take the unusual and reluctant step of acknowledging the programs’ existence.

Obama echoed intelligence experts — both inside and outside the government — who predicted that potential attackers will find other, secretive ways to communicate now that they know that their phone and Internet records may be targeted.

“The bad folks’ antennas go back up and they become more cautious for a period of time,” said former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee for a decade. He said he approved the phone surveillance program but did not know about the online spying.

“But we’ll just keep coming up with more sophisticated ways to dig into these data. It becomes a techies game, and we will try to come up with new tools to cut through the clutter,” he said.

In the immediate years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government began collecting data from U.S. telephone companies, looking at whether overseas terror suspects were calling phone numbers in the U.S. The program does not allow the government to listen in on calls, but it can track where a call was placed and how long it lasted. If intelligence officials single out phone numbers that they want to target for eavesdropping, they must return to court to get approval.

In 2006, after the telephone surveillance was first revealed and amid a public outcry, a secret court was tasked with approving all of the government requests for the records. But until this week, it was not widely known how many phone records were noted, or how often.

The NSA seizure of website and Internet provider records was even more secretive, and began only in the past few years. Clapper said those records, too, are released only with secret court orders and monitors look only for documents that appear to have come from overseas. The data are not to be used to target U.S. citizens, and the government must try to minimize any information that was mistakenly taken from Americans.

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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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9 Responses to "Obama says Americans must learn to live with government spying on them"

  1. Purple.  June 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

    The Constitution doesn’t give the government such rights, in fact it outright forbids such things.

    The Constitution also doesn’t give the government the right to ignore the Constitution for any reason, National Security or otherwise.

    Full stop.

  2. Jim Grandone  June 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Listening posts have been in existence since the beginning of the cold war and surveillance was prevalent in WWII. Is anyone really surprised/outraged that the most powerful country in the world is still monitoring foreign communications?

  3. Keith  June 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

    “Obama says it will be harder to detect threats against the U.S. now that the two top-secret tools to target terrorists have been so thoroughly publicized.”

    Say WHAT?

    This man’s ignorant arrogance continually FLOORS me.

    Doesn’t he know that the term “military secrets” is an oxymoron? Has he yet to comprehend that such secrets are the most fleeting of all?

    Clearly, with over 800,000+ now engaged in government “surveillance” in one form or another in the United States, expecting to keep ALL of those official lips permanently zipped is nothing but a fool’s errand.

    Indeed, there will always be a handful among that HUGE number of officials who (quite rightly) believe that listening to everyone’s cell phone calls just find some made by Bedouins in tents (that is, tribal people who pose absolutely NO strategic threat to our nation…and never have) is a horrific waste of the taxpayer’s money and a clear violation of the 4th Amendment to our Constitution.

    Clearly, what Obama and his minions don’t want to discuss is that more people die from simply falling out of bed in the USA annually than die in terrorist attacks.

    Yet, the US continues to spend hundreds of billions of your and my tax dollars each year trying to keep EVERY religious fanatic on the planet from putting bombs in (of all things) pressure cookers.

    It, too, is a fools errand.

    Terrorism has been going on for centuries and will continue to go on for centuries more, regardless of how many billions of dollars we (or anyone else) throw at the problem.

    For some reason, we Americans always seem to crave having an “enemy”. However, I’m now convinced that all this “terrorism” nonsense is simply a convenient cover to keep that (now horrifically embedded) 15% of the US GDP that comes under the heading of “war making” fully employed.

    For, indeed, without an “enemy” to use all that military capability against, what’s ultimately produced by that 15% is of absolutely no value.

    Except, perhaps to the greedy, power hungry leeches who continue to perpetuate it.

  4. Carl Nemo **==  June 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

    And this guy is supposed to be a “Constitutional Scholar”; at least that was what was claimed when he first surfaced as a presidential aspirant…say what!? We really don’t know much about this guy (all of his personal records are sealed) other than he started out as an entity named Barry Soetoro and was evenutally morphed; I.E., groomed into someone named Barack Obama. His family, both parents were CIA operatives. Are there any questions folks…? / : | I personally think that our intel services have co-opted the presidency starting with H.W. Bush & Co.

    In addition to violating the 4th Amendment in a major way across a broad spectrum of communications platforms, we now have the President of the United States telling us it’s necessary for our ‘well-being’. I say bullsh*t! If Obama says it’s for our well-being then it must be so…no?

    The surveillance state was created in order to protect criminals in high places from ultimate accountability with their focus on terrorists being the least of their concerns. Their main mission is to surveil “We the People” 24/7/365. That’s why they ‘freak out’ when any of their dirty secrets are compromised. Their terminal arrogance is anathema to them being questioned about their intentions along with demands for accountability.
    They are elitists; I.E., predators and we the people their prey. Believe it…!

    With reference as to why the likes of Obama et al. despots throughout history make it to high office; then asserting their fallacious edicts upon their fellow citizens…

    *****

    “What luck for rulers that men do not think.” … Adolf Hitler

    *****

    Carl Nemo **==

  5. woody188  June 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I don’t remember anyone asking if we wanted 100% security or mentioning that it would cost us our Constitutional rights. Any sane person knows that it isn’t possible to have 100% security and pursuing such an objective is foolish and expensive. Kind of sums up Obama’s presidency, foolish and expensive.

  6. DaveM  June 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I guess Obama never read this quote from Ben Franklin…’Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.’

  7. Keith  June 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    When Obama was campaigning for President, he was quoted as saying that he would be a President who listened to ALL the American people.

    I guess now we know what he really meant…..

  8. Sandy Price  June 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Americans have given up trying to live the right life versus the wrong life. From birth we are told what to do or fear the actions of a monster God. We handed American citizens a government based on divisions that make no sense. I remember my training in high school about how to determine which road to take for our most advanced independence. Our civics classes described our choices but it was up to us to choose wisely.

    Today we have two television cable choices and our choices are ill-defined. It became evident that the majority of Americans are driven by the information that electing a man of color was not a good effort.

    I backed away from involvement in the policies of my own children’s children. My grand kids are not academically prepared for the ability to choose their own future. I even pulled back from buying books for my friend’s grandchildren. Their reading lists reflect what they watch on television. Their choice of music sounds like gun fire without any attempt to make them emotionally involved.

    The Presidents who we put into office are not responsible for how we observe our government. We see what gets through the media.

    I sat around our YMCA pool last week and asked my class what books they had read this last year. Not a single hand went up. Did they know what books their children would be asked to review? No! It is very clear why my book store closed up after cable TV came into the area.

    It is bad enough that we cheated ourselves out of sharing the emotions that real life offers. Without reading, we don’t even know what we have missed. I wanted my kids to share the passionate love that Dante felt for Beatrice when I first read the Divine Comedy. The story of the German Kingdom of Heaven was the setting of many Wagnerian operas and plays and the mix up of Isolde and Tristan is pure sex put to music of magic.

    My entire world of culture has been erased in America. Certain European cultural centers still bring the words and music of the masters to the public but for some reason RAP wins the gold ring on the television cable programs in America.

    I do not blame Obama for missing the point on his leadership promises. He used his leadership abilities and the American people were not prepared for his leadership skills.

    My own kids find American culture missing and spent many months a year in and around Paris. They plan to move there after they retire.

    Why didn’t we spend more time and effort describing what Obama wanted when he moved into the white house? He made many promises to women and kept most of them. I was stunned at the fury of the GOP that tried to tie his hands.

  9. Danny Adams  June 10, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Disappointing, and hypocritical of him since he promised to end this sort of thing, but nothing new. I spent most of the Bush administration hearing “If you’re not doing anything wrong then you’ve got nothing to hide”, after all. And how criticizing the president’s actions with things like this was “aiding the terrorists”.

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