U.S. President Barack Obama is defending the government's top-secret
surveillance programs, while acknowledging widespread concerns the
efforts are violating the privacy rights of ordinary Americans.
In a television interview broadcast late Monday on PBS, Obama insisted
the National Security Agency is operating its phone and Internet
monitoring efforts within the law.
The president has been under fire since last week's revelations of the
NSA programs by the British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington
Post. He says he has ordered intelligence officials to release as much
information as possible "without further compromising the program."
Obama also said he has created a privacy and civil liberties oversight
board to review the NSA efforts.
Earlier Monday, a report published in The Guardian said documents
obtained from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the
man who exposed the NSA programs, show that Britain spied on diplomats
attending the 2009 Group of 20 summit in London.
The newspaper said Britain's eavesdropping agency, the General
Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, hacked into the phones and
computers of Turkish and South African delegates at the summit. It said
the GCHQ also tricked some G-20 delegates into using Internet cafes that
it secretly modified to intercept diplomatic communications.
The Guardian published redacted versions of some of the documents, but
their authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Their release
coincided with Britain hosting the first day of a Group of Eight
industrialized nations summit in Northern Ireland.
in a live online question and answer session hosted on The Guardian
website, Snowden was quoted as saying U.S. intelligence analysts have
the ability to view the content of U.S. citizen phone and e-mail
communications without a warrant.
But Snowden did not mention any specific cases of U.S. intelligence
operatives viewing private communications of Americans and did not give
any examples of alleged rights abuses by those operatives.
Snowden has been hiding in the autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong
since leaking the information about the NSA spying programs earlier this
month. During the online session, he denied speculation that he had any
contact with the Chinese government.
Some U.S. officials and lawmakers have accused Snowden of damaging
national security by tipping off U.S. enemies about previously-secret
surveillance programs and enabling them to change tactics.