White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said President Obama will make more remarks about National Security Agency telephone data and internet surveillance programs in the coming days. [WATCH VIDEO: NSA UPDATE]
McDonough, speaking on CBS on Sunday, said Obama holds the privacy of Americans “sacrosanct” and is seeking to strike the right balance between civil liberties and securing the country against the threat of terrorist attacks.
“The president welcomes a public debate on these questions because he does say, and he will say again in the days ahead, that we have to find the right balance,” he said.
McDonough said Obama "does not" believe the programs violated the privacy of any Americans.
He added that the Obama administration has ensured more safeguards than the Bush administration’s surveillance efforts.
“He took a very hard look at them and as a result we changed many things about how we oversee those programs. Congress now is much more robustly involved in these programs,” McDonough said.
He noted that bipartisan majorities have enacted the laws that enable the recently revealed phone data gathering and internet surveillance programs, a reference to the reauthorizations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act.
He also noted reviews by the NSA’s internal watchdogs and the role of the so-called FISA court, but critics call that body little more than a rubber stamp.
McDonough was also asked to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s statement Sunday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was a “traitor.”
He declined to endorse those remarks.
“You know, again, I'm not going to front-run any investigation that's ongoing here. We're going to be very careful about that,” said McDonough.