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Obama defends NSA''s surveillance progs, welcomes debate

WASHINGTON, June 7 (KUNA) -- US President Barack Obama on Friday defended the National Security Council's controversial surveillance of American citizens, saying it was not possible to have security without compromising some measure of privacy.
His reaction to leaked government documents was delivered at a press conference from California, where he is meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping later in the day.
"In the abstract, you can complain about 'big brother' and how this is a potential program run amok," said Obama. "When you actually look at the details, I think we've struck the right balance." The remarks came a day after The Washington Post uncovered reports about a USD 20 million program called PRISM, through which the US government was able to tap into the central servers of internet giants like Google and Facebook to track user activity. Those reports followed The Guardian newspaper's leak, showing documents indicating blanket surveillance of cell phone calls by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The president insisted that only certain identifiers are needed from the phone records.
"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program's about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community 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," said Obama. He added that this also does not apply to American citizens or those living in the US.
"This program, by the way, is fully overseen not just by Congress but by the FISA Court, a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them," he added.
The president said he welcomes a discussion on these issues, but does not welcome the leak of classified documents.
"I think it's healthy for our democracy. I think it's a sign of maturity, because probably five years ago, six years ago, we might not have been having this debate," Obama said.
"There is a suggestion that somehow any classified program is a quote-unquote "secret" program, which means it's somehow suspicious. But the fact of the matter is, in our modern history there are a whole range of programs that have been classified because, when it comes to, for example, fighting terror, our goal is to stop folks from doing us harm," he said.
Obama reassured the public repeatedly that there is far-reaching oversight when it comes to these programs.
"Congress is continually briefed on how these are conducted," he said. "There are a whole range of safeguards involved. And federal judges are overseeing the entire program throughout." (end) ys.hy.bs KUNA 072210 Jun 13NNNN