President Obama defended the NSA today in an interview that will air Monday on Charlie Rose.
For the first time, Obama fully explained his argument in favor of the NSA programs as they undergo harsh criticism.
"We don't have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security," Obama said. "That's a false choice. That doesn't mean that there are not tradeoffs involved... To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom."
Obama cited airport security and measures to curb drunk driving as tradeoffs that succeed in keeping Americans safe. He said the goal is to protect the American way of life, including privacy. There is a balance between protection and privacy, however.
"Every program that I've said is, 'Let's examine and make sure that we're making the right tradeoffs."
He said the rules have not changed for privacy -- just because the records exist does not mean they are available for casual listening.
"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… and have not.
"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, 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..."
Obama said he has no problem with what the NSA is doing because of the regulations in place to prevent abuse and to keep the processes transparent.
See the transcript here.