WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama vigorously defended sweeping secret surveillance into America's phone records and foreigners' Internet use, declaring "we have to make choices as a society."
Taking questions today from reporters at a health care event in San Jose, Calif., Obama said, "It's important to recognize that you can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience."
It was revealed late Wednesday that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone customers.
The leaked document first reported by the Guardian newspaper gave the NSA authority to collect from all of Verizon's land and mobile customers, but intelligence experts said the program swept up the records of other phone companies too. Another secret program revealed Thursday scours the Internet usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of nine U.S.-based internet providers such as Microsoft and Google.
In his first comments since the programs were publicly revealed this week, Obama said safeguards are in place.
"They help us prevent terrorist attacks," Obama said. He said he has concluded that prevention is worth the "modest encroachments on privacy."