Obama defends US internet surveillance

Washington, June 19 (IANS) US President Barack Obama, currently on a trip to Berlin, Wednesday defended the country’s internet surveillance programmes, saying that lives have been saved and threats averted thanks to the monitored information.

At least 50 threats, both in the US and countries including Germany, have been averted because of information the National Security Agency (NSA) was able to access, Obama said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He assured the German public that the programmes were subject to court oversight and followed strict procedures in order to prevent terrorist attacks, Xinhua reported.

Merkel, meanwhile, said that government monitoring of internet communications needed to remain within proper limits, and stressed the importance of proportionality and balance.

“I made clear that although we do see the need for gathering information, the topic of proportionality is always an important one,” Merkel said.

Under a highly classified programme disclosed by the media recently, the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been tapping directly into the central servers of nine US internet companies, enabling analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

Obama insisted that the surveillance programme was purely aimed at thwarting terror attacks.

Merkel earlier told broadcaster RTL in an interview that she was surprised by the US programme, and that German people wanted to know if their online data was being monitored by the US agency.

She called for more transparency over the issue, which caused deep unease in the privacy-sensitive German society.

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