White House press secretary Jay Carney essentially agreed with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s recent comments that the government should have been upfront with Americans about the National Security Agency’s data mining program.
“I certainly don’t think Director Clapper is saying anything that should come as a surprise, going all the way back to the event led to the creation of the programs,” Carney said Tuesday during the White House press briefing.
“You’ve seen in what the president has done and the steps that he has taken, he absolutely shares the view that we need to enact reforms and take steps that provide more transparency to the American people in a way that gives them more confidence that the intelligence gathering we engage in is done with full oversight and in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and is done solely with the aim of protecting the American people and protecting the United States,” Carney said.
Clapper told The Daily Beast that going back to the Bush administration, the government should have been more forthcoming to the public about what the NSA was doing.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper said. “Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 — which is the genesis of the 215 program — and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards.”
Clapper has faced scrutiny for telling a Senate committee last year that the NSA was not gathering such data.
Clapper went on to say, “if the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it.”
Clapper was referring to section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Obama administration has used as justification to authorize obtaining the phone and e-mail records of millions of Americans, of who they called and sent messages and when, but not the content of the communication.
The NSA program was exposed by former contractor turned fugitive leaker Edward Snowden.
Under reforms Obama announced in January, the government will continue collecting the data, but will rely on a third party non-government body to hold onto the information. Obama also promised greater oversight both for collection data on Americans and on people overseas. It will further seek judicial review when gathering data.
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