WASHINGTON, June 10 (RIA Novosti) – The White House declined Monday to comment on the revelation by a former CIA employee of an extensive government surveillance program but said a broad social debate on balancing national security and citizen’s privacy would be “absolutely appropriate.”
“There is obviously an investigation under way into this matter,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in response to a request for comment on the leaking of top secret documents detailing the US government’s sweeping electronic surveillance program known as “Prism” by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden.
“For that reason, I am not going to be able to discuss specifically this individual or this investigation, nor would I characterize the president’s views” on the case, Carney said.
He added, however, that it is necessary to “strike the appropriate balance” between national security interests and privacy concerns and said President Barack Obama believes “it is an absolutely appropriate topic for debate.”
Asked about concerns from foreign governments about US surveillance of their own citizens’ email and telephone communications, Carney said Obama was open to discussion of the issue.
“He believes that this is a conversation especially worth having and a debate especially worth having here in the United States but beyond as well,” Carney said.
His comments came after the Guardian newspaper published details including classified documents about the US government’s secret program for collecting and storing data from email and phone communications of tens of millions of people in the United States and abroad.
The blockbuster scoop, followed by revelation of the identity of the former CIA employee who leaked the information and who is currently reported to be holed up in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong, triggered a firestorm of debate in the United States and elsewhere about whether the Obama administration was overreaching its constitutional authority and whether Americans were prepared to give authorities the power to access their communications in exchange for government assurances of enhanced security.