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US defends internet, phone surveillance program

Acknowledging the need of a system of check and balance to prevent any misuse, US president Barack Obama defended the controversial internet and phone surveillance program arguing that this keeps the nations safe and has prevented terrorist strike.

world Updated: Dec 21, 2013 11:58 IST

Acknowledging the need of a system of check and balance to prevent any misuse, US president Barack Obama defended the controversial internet and phone surveillance program arguing that this keeps the nations safe and has prevented terrorist strike.

Obama said that "there had not been evidence and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how it was used," and that it proved a useful tool for the intelligence community.

The program ensured that any thread on a potential terrorist threat can be followed effectively, Obama said at his last press conference of the year.

Justifying the concerns raised over the disclosures on the surveillance program, the President said "It is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse."

"And if that's the case, there may be another way of skinning the cat," he said.

"So we just keep on going at this stuff and saying, can we do this better? Can we do this more effectively ?" he said adding that the recommendations of the panel which submitted a report in this regard are consistent with that.

Disclosing the recommendations of the panel, Obama said the program is required.

"We can't unilaterally disarm. There are ways we can do it potentially that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances, that there's sufficient oversight, sufficient transparency," he said.

It could be redesigned to address such concerns, the President said.

The recommendations of the panel would be implemented, Obama said adding that the disclosures and debates over the program has convinced him that this is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust.

"So what's going to be important is to build that back up," said the US President.

"I take that into account in weighing how we structure these programs," he said.

He said that the information required by the intelligence agencies could also be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer.

"That might cost more. There might need to be different checks on how those requests are made. There may be technological solutions that have to be found to do that," he said.