President Barack Obama said Friday while announcing proposed changes to National Security Agency surveillance programs that the United States should not shy away from the world’s expectations that it will uphold individual freedoms across the globe.
“It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating,” he said in a speech at the Department of Justice, according to his prepared remarks. “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account. But let us remember that we are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront in defending personal privacy and human dignity.”
“As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment rather than government control,” he added. “Having faced down the totalitarian dangers of fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely – because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.
“Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations.”