Obama: Massive seizures ‘modest encroachments’

President Obama Friday defended his administration’s massive seizure of private citizens’ phone records, email and Internet activities as “modest encroachments on privacy” that are necessary to fight the war on terrorism.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Mr. Obama said at a hastily arranged news conference in San Jose, Calif. “They’re not looking at peoples’ names and they’re not looking at content. We have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about.”

The president sought to quell a growing furor that erupted Wednesday night with the news that the National Security Agency, at the request of the FBI, was routinely collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. Late Thursday, the government also acknowledged that the NSA is gathering Internet users’ personal data, such as email, photos and online chats in real time, from the computer servers of at least nine large Web service providers under a top secret program called “Prism.”

The revelations have created a storm of protest among privacy advocates and in Congress, where many lawmakers said they were unaware of the scope of the programs. Mr. Obama said Friday that lawmakers are “fully briefed” on the programs periodically.

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