June 7, 2013

The real problem continues to be that secret programs leave the American public out of the conversation, and many of us would gladly trade a little less security for a little less intrusion. But how would we know? In a speech today, Obama defended the latest surveillance news:

SAN JOSE, Calif. – President Obama strongly defended the government’s secret surveillance of people’s phone records and Internet activities, saying there are “a whole bunch of safeguards involved” and that Congress has repeatedly authorized the programs.

“You could complain about big brother and how this is a potential program run amok,” Obama said, “but when you actually look at the details, I think we strike the right balance.”

He thinks we trust contribution-addicted members of Congress? Really?

Commenting on the surveillance for the first time since news organizations revealed the sweeping National Security Agency programs this week, Obama highlighted limits to the programs to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and said the surveillance has helped the government anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks.

“They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said. He added that the 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 U.S. citizens and U.S. residents.”

Obama spoke at length about the need to find a proper balance between national security prerogatives and civil liberties.

“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Yes, I agree. But I think citizens have already come to the conclusion that 100 percent security is not worth the intrusion into our privacy, and if these programs are secret, we're not part of that balancing act. Only the members of the security establishment are.

The president acknowledged that he took office in 2009 with “a healthy skepticism about these programs,” but after thorough evaluation by his advisers concluded that they were necessary.

“We scrubbed them thoroughly,” Obama said. “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 or duration without a name attached and not looking at content, that on net it was worth us doing.”

Trust me, baby. Trust me.

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