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Jim Breckenridge, executive director of the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., said the president could have done a better job educating the public about broad aspects of the surveillance long before disillusioned NSA contractor Edward Snowden fed the details to the media.

“Leaders, part of their job is to educate and inform,” said Mr. Breckenridge, a retired Army officer who worked in the intelligence community. “There’s a vehicle to do that. I think this administration’s been rather reluctant to get out there and talk about the war on terror and what it means for Americans, educating the population so what when these sorts of things are divulged, there’s context.”

Mr. Obama said he has named representatives to a privacy and civil liberties oversight board to help determine how far the government should go in collecting data.

“We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place … 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,” the president said.

Mr. Obama reportedly has asked Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper to determine how much more information about the programs could be made public because, as the president said, Americans are “not getting the complete story.”