During an interview Monday with PBS host Charlie Rose, President Obama insisted that the National Security Agency cannot eavesdrop on the phone calls and emails of U.S. persons.
“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails,” Obama said.
“They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be ‘they,’ it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause,” he continued, “the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause…”
In addition to defending the effectiveness of the NSA’s surveillance programs, Obama also had strong words about the U.S. role in the Syrian conflict and the cyber theft of industry trade secrets by China.
Obama’s interview with Rose came after over two weeks of intelligence leaks from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a former CIA technician and NSA defense contractor. Snowdon alleged that the U.S. government is engaged in a massive domestic spying operation against U.S. citizens.
Other leaks by Snowden have revealed cybersecurity and global surveillance programs, including an NSA surveillance operation of former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev during the G20 Summit in London in 2009.