Caught in the act of secretly spying on millions of Americans, the president is trying to minimize the damage done to his public reputation, including among his most devoted supporters. On Thursday The New York Times editorialized that President Obama has with the latest disclosures “lost all credibility” on the issue of transparency and accountability.

Obama on Friday “forcefully defended revelations that the National Security Agency is collecting phone records and electronic communications, saying that Congress was fully briefed and the programs are limited in scope,” The Huffington Post reported.

The president said: “I welcome this debate and I think it’s healthy for our democracy.” Those statements are difficult to believe, given that he did not invite the public to debate him before he continued and expanded the spying programs, which began under President Bush.

The aspects of those programs revealed this week included the NSA’s orders to collect phone records from Verizon Wireless customers and a program called PRISM, which tracks user information from nine leading U.S. Internet and technology companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, YouTube, Apple, Paltalk and Skype.

In essence, the president is trying to tell the American people that the existence and operation of mass surveillance programs are no big deal. But they are a big deal. And he could have had some chance at keeping a greater share of the public’s trust if he had announced his intentions and invited the public to weigh in on them in the beginning.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Huffington Post:

Obama portrayed the programs as a trade-off between security and civil liberties. “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society,” he said.

He also expressed his displeasure that the domestic spying programs’ existence was leaked to the press. “I don’t welcome leaks,” he said. “There’s a reason these programs are classified.”

The president’s full-throated defense of the programs, albeit with the qualification that he welcomes debate, is unlikely to quell the outrage over the revelations. Obama ran as an antidote to Bush’s policies in 2008, but the reports reveal that he has continued many of them, leading to concerns over the reach of the national security state.

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