Curbing National Security Excesses Requires Transparency

Statement of Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of on the President's Speech on NSA Reforms:

"During the speech, President Obama made an important admission regarding how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 drove the government to take some actions that are at odds with our core values. In particular, President Obama called out the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that many equate with torture. Rightly, President Obama points to actions by the courts and increased congressional oversight to right some of the government's excesses before he took office; what he fails to note though is how important his decision to declassify and release the memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) authorizing the techniques was to improving public understanding of the issues and restoring the public's trust in the government.

Throughout the speech, President Obama referenced the need for public debate about the NSA's surveillance programs, and he admitted that it is not enough for leaders to say, 'Trust us. We won't abuse the data we collect.' It should be obvious, however, that public debate is only useful if the public has an informed understanding about the scope and legality of these programs. And in the absence of access to information detailing the scope and the legal interpretations of the programs, the public has no way to ask good questions and trust in the government will not be strengthened.

We continue to support the important reforms included in the USA Freedom Act and we join with the President's Review Group in calling for fuller transparency for accountability to the public."

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