WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama was due to meet today with members of a privacy oversight watchdog board to try to reassure Americans rattled by revelations of the US government’s vast monitoring of phone and Internet data.
Obama is scrambling to show he has credibility on the issue after coming under fire for the scope of surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, which was revealed in a series of disclosures by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
The president will hold talks with members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a five-person independent agency that has been largely dormant since 2008 and held its first full-fledged meeting on Wednesday after the Senate confirmed David Medine as its chairman last month.
The board’s purpose is to review actions the government takes to protect national security, while balancing those steps with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties.
Obama, in an interview with PBS anchor Charlie Rose broadcast on Monday, strongly defended the surveillance program as necessary to protect against the possibility of attacks, but said he wanted to ensure Americans’ retained their right to privacy.
His approval rating has dropped in some opinion polls, with the fallout over the surveillance programme cited as a reason.
Privacy advocates have argued the surveillance activities infringe on Americans’ civil liberties, and say the oversight is insufficient.
The Obama administration and high-profile lawmakers have defended the programme as vital national security tools that are vigorously overseen by the administration, Congress and a special court. (Reuters)