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Obama to defend surveillance scheme at G8
June 15, 2013, 3:51 am

Snowden released secret documents about US Internet and telephone surveillance [The Guardian via Getty Images]

Edward Snowden released secret documents about US Internet and telephone surveillance programmes [The Guardian via Getty Images]

US President Barack Obama will defend the secretive Internet surveillance programmes conducted by the US intelligence community when he meets with leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Ireland next week, the White House said Friday.

“He’ll be able to discuss with the other leaders the importance of these programs, in terms of our counterterrorism efforts in particular, the constraints and safeguards that we place on these programmes so that they have oversight against potential abuses,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

“And all of these countries at the G8 are important counterterrorism partners,” Rhodes told reporters at a press briefing. “And together, we’ve worked with them on an intelligence and security relationship to foil terrorist attacks in the United States and in Europe.”

Under the highly classified program, code-named PRISM, the US National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been tapping directly into the central servers of nine US internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The surveillance, disclosed by media last week, has sparked an outcry in Europe over concerns about intrusion into the privacy of individuals.

“We certainly understand that – like the United States – countries in Europe have significant interests in privacy and civil liberties, so we will want to hear their questions and have an exchange about these programs and other counterterrorism programs that we pursue in the United States and in partnership,” Rhodes said.

“I think the point that we will make is, in addition to the types of safeguards against abuse that we have, this is not a program that is intended to target individuals for what they’re doing online, other than to seek to uncover terrorist plots and nexus to terrorism,” he added.

Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked top secret documents about US Internet and telephone surveillance programmes to the media, fled the US for Honk Kong last week. The FBI is currently searching for Snowden, as the US Justice Department prepares charges against him.

At one point, Russia – also attending the G8 meeting – said it would grant Snowden asylum if asked.

Obama will visit Germany on June 18-19 after the G8 summit.