President Obama made his first public comments on the NSA leaks that have occurred over the past few days, with the cable news channels covering it live. The comments were made at the tail-end of a press conference on health care reform.
“I don’t want the whole day to be a bleeding press conference,” the President said, before calling on the New York Times, who asked about the NSA leaks. Obama said that “every member of congress has been briefed” on the phone program, and the members of the Intelligence Committees were briefed on the digital programs. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” he added.
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He also said he “welcomed a debate” about the conflict between privacy and security, and that he “came in with a skepticism of these programs.” That said, “my team’s assessment was that these prevent terrorist attacks” and that the trade-off was worth it.
After briefly leaving the podium, he returned to explain his comments more in-depth, adding that there will be time to discuss them over the next few days.
The conference actually started inauspiciously as he walked out to the podium only to discover that his remarks weren’t there, resulting in a staffer sheepishly walking out with the written remarks after the President called them out.