President Obama on Tuesday defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs in a wide-ranging interview on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” arguing that the agency doesn’t target U.S. civilians.
“We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama said, according to the media pool report. “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack…That information is useful.”
Obama called the surveillance programs “a critical component to counterterrorism,” but acknowledged that they’ve “raised a lot of questions for people.”
The NSA’s surveillance programs, first uncovered when former contractor Edward Snowden divulged details to The Guardian, have been the focus of a renewed debate since a weekend terror threat had top administration officials huddling at the White House, and provoked the State Department to close more than 20 diplomatic posts and issue a worldwide travel alert.