NSA news thickened during an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose on Monday when President Barack Obama downplayed the widespread controversial surveillance program conducted by that agency.
“If you’re a US person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order,” Obama said in the interview.
However, the president did acknowledge critics’ warnings by admitting that the NSA’s two exposed programs—one that collects telephone records and the other that gathers internet communications—have “the enormous potential for abuse.”
Obama insists that for the government to conduct that type of abuse right now would be illegal. Edward Snowden, the source for this NSA exposé, reached the opposite conclusion, arguing that such established legal limits are meaningless unless the citizenry is given technological safeguards to protect against government inclusion. Snowden has warned, “The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time.”
When asked about allotting transparency of this government surveillance, Obama insists: “It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court. However, this is problematic, because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court conducts its rulings in secret and turns down only a tiny handful of government requests.
The remainder of this interview concerned the ultimate decision to arm the Syrian rebels against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with only these few comments about the NSA’s surveillance program, and that should make everyone increasingly wary and skeptical. And keep in mind that under the PATRIOT Act, these “individualized court order[s]” no longer require a search warrant. Just keep that in mind the next time you think, “Oh well, it has nothing to do with me.”