President Barack Obama defended top-secret National Security Agency spying programs as legal in a long interview Monday, and called them transparent — even though they are authorized in secret.
“It is transparent,” Obama told PBS’ Charlie Rose in an interview to be broadcast Monday. “That’s why we set up the FISA court,” he added, referring to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes two recently disclosed programs: one that gathers U.S. phone records and another designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism.
The location of FISA courts is secret. Sessions are closed. The orders that result from hearings in which only government lawyers are present are classified.
“We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place ... that their phone calls aren’t being listened into; their text messages aren’t being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere,” Obama said.
Obama is in Northern Ireland for a meeting of leaders of allied countries. As Obama arrived, the latest series of Guardian articles drawing on the leaks claims that British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats’ phones and emails with U.S. help, to get an edge in such high-stakes negotiations.