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Obama Offers Full-Throated Defense Of NSA

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"What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale – not only because I felt that they made us more secure; but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens," he said in a speech at the Department of Justice.

"To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people," he added.

"They are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails," he said. "When mistakes are made – which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise – they correct those mistakes. Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots. "