By Blake Neff - 08/14/13 12:10 PM EDT
Silicon Valley tycoon Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, defended the National Security Agency’s controversial domestic surveillance on Tuesday, saying it was needed to protect the public from terrorism.
“It's great. It's essential,” said Ellison during an interview with CBS News.
Ellison said the private sector had been gathering data about the public for much longer than the nation’s intelligence agencies and had amassed far more information.
“We've been collecting this information for so long, long before the NSA was collecting it,” he said. “American Express, Visa, all your credit card data, we have, and all your financial records.”
Ellison said there was so far no evidence the information collected by the NSA had been abused by the government. But he added that there was always a danger the government could cross a line into unacceptable surveillance that infringed on civil liberties.
“If the government used it to do political targeting,” Ellison said. “In other words, if we stop looking for terrorists and we start looking for people on the other side of the aisle.”
Former government contractor Edward Snowden’s leaking of classified documents detailing the NSA’s surveillance of phone and email traffic led to renewed debate about the balance between national security and privacy rights.
While the administration has defended the programs, saying they saved lives, President Obama last week said he would take steps to increase transparency and oversight to assuage congressional concerns.