(USA TODAY) -- President Obama is defending National Security Agency surveillance
programs, and disputing the notion that he is following in the footsteps
of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
In a PBS interview with
Charlie Rose, Obama said efforts to track terrorists through phone and
Internet surveillance have safeguards to prevent abusing the civil
liberties of innocent Americans. Obama cited both congressional and
When Rose asked, "should this be transparent in some way?" Obama responded: "It is transparent. That's why we set up the FISA court."
Critics note that this court -- created through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- issues rulings in secret.
of those critics also say Obama is continuing programs he criticized
when they were operated by President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Obama told Rose his goal is to prevent terrorism:
people say, 'well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now
he's, you know, Dick Cheney.' Dick Cheney sometimes says, 'yeah, you
know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.'
concern has always been not that we shouldn't do intelligence gathering
to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks
and balances? So, on this telephone program, you've got a federal court
with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And
you've got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence
committee and not just the judiciary committee -- but all of Congress
had available to it before the last re-authorization exactly how this
Obama also said his conservative critics are exhibiting a fair share of hypocrisy: "What
amuses me is now folks on the right who are fine when there's a
Republican president -- but now, Obama's coming in with the black
The interview was taped Sunday, before Obama left for the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.