Speaking in northern California on Friday to address Obamacare, President Obama instead launched into a tirade about recent reports regarding government surveillance of everything from phone records to credit card statements to internet chats. Obama noted that Congress had been informed of the programs at issue, and said that “the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.” He called reports on the programs “hype.” Then he got to the meat of the issue:
When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about. … What the intelligence 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. … If the intelligence committee actually wants to listen to a phone call they have to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.
He then spoke about monitoring of internet activities: “With respect to the Internet and emails, this does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.” This is at odds with material reported by the Washington Post.
Finally, he lectured Americans on the need to balance security and privacy: “You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy, and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”