Obama on NSA Controversy: 'No One Is Listening To Your Phone Calls'

President addresses recent security investigation of government surveillance on Americans.
9:04 | 06/07/13

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Transcript for Obama on NSA Controversy: 'No One Is Listening To Your Phone Calls'
-- -- Online for me. The -- when I came. Into his office. I've made. Two commitments that are more important than any commitment I'm make number want to keep the American people safe. And number two. To uphold the constitution. Includes. What I consider to be a constitutional right to privacy. And an observance of civil liberties. Now. The programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press. Are secret in the sense that -- are classified. But. They're not secret in the sense that. -- when it comes to telephone calls every member of congress has been briefed on this program. With -- respect all these programs. Be relevant Intelligence Committees. Are fully briefed on these programs. These are programs that have been authorized. By broad bipartisan majorities. To repeatedly since 2006. And -- so I think at the outset it's important to understand that. Your. Duly elected represented us. Have been consistently informed. On exactly. What we're -- Now let let me -- The two issues separately. When it comes to telephone calls. Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what -- programs about. As was indicated. What. The intelligence community is doing. Is. Looking at. Phone numbers. And durations of colts they are not looking at people's names. And they're not looking at content. But by sifting through this so called metadata. They may identify. Potential leads. With -- respect to folks who might engage in terrorist. These folks. If the intelligence community that actually wants to listen no phone call. I've got to go back to a federal judge. Just like they -- -- a criminal investigation. So. I want to be very clear some of hype that we've been hearing over the last bears -- Nobody is listening to the content. Of people's phone calls. This program by the way is fully -- not just by congress. But by the -- a court. A court specially. Put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch or government generally is not abusing them and that. -- it's being carried out consistent way of the constitution. And rule of law. And so not only does that court. Authorize. The initial. Gathering of data but I want to repeat if anybody in government wanted to go further than just that top line data and want it -- for example wasn't it Jackie -- phone call. That have to go back to. A federal judge. And and and indicate why in fact. They were doing further. Further probing. How to respect to the Internet. And emails. This does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply. To people living in the United States. And again in this instance not only is congress fully apprised of it. But what is also true is that the five's -- court has to authorize. So in summary what you've got is two programs that were originally authorized by congress. Have been repeatedly. Authorized by congress. Bipartisan majorities have approved on the congress is continually briefed on how these are conducted there are -- whole range of safeguards involved. And federal judges are overseeing the entire program throughout. We are also setting up we've also set up an audit process. When I came -- office to make sure that were. After the fact make huge. -- certain that all the sabres are being properly observe. Now having said all that. You'll remember when I made that speech. A couple weeks ago about. The need for us to shift out of a perpetual war mindset. I specifically said that one of the things the wrapped discuss and debate. Is power always striking this balance. Between the need to keep the American people safe. And our concerns about privacy. Because there are some tradeoffs involved. I welcome this debate. And I think it's healthy for our democracy I think it's a sign of maturity because probably five years ago six years ago. We might not have been having this debate. It's interesting that there -- some folks on the left but also some folks on the right who are now. Worried about who worked very. Worried about it. -- it was a Republican president I think that's good. That were having this discussion. But I think it's important. For our great understand I think the American people understand. That there are some tradeoffs involved. You know. IA. -- -- -- helping skepticism bouts these programs. My team evaluated them we scrub them early we actually expand at some of the oversight. Increase some of the safeguards. But my assessment. And my team's assessment. Was that. May help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest. Encroachments. On. Privacy that are -- in getting phone numbers or adoration without a name attached and not looking at content. That. On. You know net. It was worth us don't that's some other folks may have a different assessment of that. But I think it's important -- recognize that. You can't have. A 100% security. And also then have a 100%. Privacy. And zero inconvenience. You know -- -- we're gonna have to make some choices. As a society and I can say is that in the valuing these programs they make a difference. To anticipate and prevent. Possible terrorist activity. And the fact that they're under very strict supervision by all three branches of government. And that they do not involve. Listening to people's phone calls. Do not involve. Reading the emails of US citizens or US residence. Absent further. Action by federal court. That is entirely. Consistent with what we were -- for example -- a criminal investigation. I think on balance we. You know we have. Established a process and a procedure. That the American people should feel comfortable about but. Again this these programs are subject to congressional oversight. And congressional reauthorization and congressional debate. And at their members of congress who feel differently. Then. They should speak up. And were happy to have that --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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