- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2013

President Obama strongly defended National Security Agency surveillance programs on Friday morning but acknowledged that, if unchecked, they could easily be abused.

“There are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick that, at some point, does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place?” Mr. Obama told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “Do some of these [surveillance] systems end up being like a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse?”

The president — sitting down with CNN while on a two-day bus tour through upstate New York and Pennsylvania — also conceded that the American people aren’t convinced by his assurances, or those of congressional leaders, that the federal government isn’t listening to citizens’ phone calls and reading emails.

Public skepticism has been fueled by recent disclosures that the NSA looked at as many as 56,000 emails and other electronic communications of Americans over a three-year period, despite them having no connection to terrorism.

“This can only work if the American people trust what’s going on,” Mr. Obama said. “People don’t have enough information and aren’t confident enough that between all of the safeguards and checks we put in place in the executive branch, and the federal court oversight, and the congressional oversight, people are still concerned that their emails are being read … We’re going to have to continue to improve the safeguards.”

While acknowledging Americans’ fears and concerns, the president added that he’s “confident” the NSA surveillance are not being abused right now.

The NSA programs were first revealed by leaker Edward Snowden, the former federal contractor who recently was granted asylum in Russia.

He’s been charged by the Justice Department with espionage and other offenses but is viewed by many civil liberties activists as a hero who revealed the depth of the government’s spying on its own people.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide