At noon, President Obama finally answered a question regarding this week's realization that the government is mining and amassing personal information from people taken from phone records and internet use. The question came after Obama gave some brief remarks regarding the Affordable Care Act. The atmosphere in the room seemed tense, especially when Obama's remarks arrived late and he was forced to make some quick jokes. You can watch the complete speech above. Obama finished his speech by saying:
You can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy with zero inconvenience.
Here are the major points he expressed:
1. Everyone in Government Knows
President Obama said everyone in Congress has been briefed on these secret endeavors in the past, and that all three branches of government have approved and re-approved these actions over the past few years. Although elected officials may have been informed, the public was still in the dark about these actions until yesterday. Obama said:
When it comes to telephone calls, every been member of congress has been briefed on these programs..these are programs that have been authorized by broad bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006...Your duly elected representatives have been informed consistently on exactly what we're doing.
2.The Government Collected Internet Information Only Outside of the U.S.
In his remarks, the president claimed that all allegations that the government was collecting American's Internet data and reading email were false. Although these systems are in place, Obama asserted that they were only used overseas.
3. The Government is Not 'Listening' to Your Phone Calls
Obama in 2007: "That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more (spying) on citizens... No more tracking citizens..."
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) June 7, 2013
President Obama attempted to reassure Americans that no government agents are actively listening to your phone calls, they are only collecting your metadata meaning, phone call numbers, duration, and maybe even GPS locations. If government personnel wanted to listen to your phone calls they would need a warrant from a judge and probable cause. However, he said the government was not "listening" not that the government was not "recording." After all of the speculation on the topic, Obama did not give confirmation today that the government was not archiving recordings of phone calls.
4."It's a Sign of Maturity, Because Five Years Ago We Might Not Have Been Having This Debate"
While referencing last month's speech on counter-terrorism, Obama mentioned his desire to get the country out of a war-time mentality. He said that part of this was having the kind of conversations about national security we are having now. Rather ominously, Obama said that five or six years ago we would not be having this debate. Whether he means his administration would have refused to comment, whistle blowers would have been indicted, or the American public was more willing to sacrifice liberties for safety six years ago is undetermined.
5. Obama Thinks he is a Vulnerable Target For Spies
Obama closed his speech by saying that he had a personal investment in the privacy of American citizens. After his presidential term is over, he said, he will just be a normalp private citizen. Obama speculated that on a list of which American citizen's emails the government would want to read or phone calls to tap, he would be "pretty high on that list."