Obama defends surveillance effort as ‘trade-off’ for security

President Barack Obama on Friday staunchly defended the sweeping U.S. government surveillance of Americans’ phone and internet activity, calling it a “modest encroachment” on privacy that was necessary to defend the United States from attack.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about,” Obama told reporters during a visit to California’s Silicon Valley. He emphasized that the secret surveillance programs were supervised by federal judges and authorized by Congress, which had been briefed on the details.

Obama’s comments came after reports this week in Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post revealed that the National Security Agency and the FBI had secretly conducted surveillance of Americans’ telephone and internet communications activities far beyond what had been made public.