In a lengthy interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, President Obama strongly defended the National Security Agency’s recently leaked surveillance programs, but said a “national conversation” over concerns of privacy and security is necessary. At one point, he laid out a way in which the government could abuse the NSA’s data-gathering on American citizens, allowing, all of that is true — except for the fact that, for the government under the program right now to do that, it would be illegal.”
The president characterized his recent decision to begin sending arms to the Syrian rebels as “consistent with my policy throughout” the conflict, and laid out his rationale for the new tactics – confirmed evidence of chemical-weapons use and greater knowledge of the opposition changed his mind, he said.
Among the few points on which Rose pressed his interviewee was the question of whether the limited American support for the rebellion will be sufficient to achieve victory — which the president brushed off with a disparaging allusion to the Iraq War:
Rose did not ask President Obama about recent revelations that the IRS intentionally targeted certain conservative organizations and others in applications for tax exemptions.
The conversation, taped on the eve of the president’s departure for the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, chiefly covered foreign-policy topics, from the Iranian election to the Syrian civil war to Obama’s recent meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The president used the final minutes of the interview to promise a renewed focus on income inequality, calling it “the issue that led me to run for president in the first place.” The full interview is available here.