Obama Calls NSA’s Unconstitutional Surveillance “Transparent” (+video)

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

President Obama has had difficulty finding his footing and has been late to the game in defending federal intelligence surveillance programs as a valuable weapon for thwarting terrorist plots, national security analysts say.

When Mr. Obama appeared on TV with PBS interviewer Charlie Rose Monday night, it was his first high-profile comment on the secret phone and Internet surveillance since the story broke on June 5, nearly two weeks earlier. And even then, the president’s remarks were seen even by supporters of the programs as muddled.

For example, the president told Mr. Rose that the surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA) were “transparent” because they are overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. But the court itself is secret, with the public barred from learning any details of its operation, its location, or the orders issued by its judges.

“The Charlie Rose show was a good tactical choice in terms of setting, but the case made so far doesn’t seem to be persuading folks,” said Peter Singer, a national security specialist at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. “What he is battling is not just a facts-based argument but a lost-trust issue that is far harder to turn around.”

As Mr. Obama himself said on the show, “This debate has gotten cloudy very quickly.”

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