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POLITICS: PennAve

Robert Gates: Obama struck right 'balance' on NSA reforms

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,National Security,PennAve,NSA,Surveillance,Meghashyam Mali,Robert Gates

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday said that President Obama had struck the right “balance” in his address unveiling reforms to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

“Acknowledging the importance of these programs and that they are valuable, that they help protect America is very important,” said Gates in an interview on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “Trying to figure out a way to provide some reassurance to Americans that these programs are not a danger to their privacy and their civil liberties is also important.”

“Along with the balance in the president's speech, I think that the intelligence committees particularly under [Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman] Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.] and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Mike Rogers [R-Mich.] -- very different political philosophies -- have done a terrific job in overseeing this,” he added.

Obama in a Friday speech kept in place the NSA's controversial monitoring and collection of phone metadata, but called for a secret court warrant before the agency can access the information and asked the Justice Department to recommend options for storing that information outside of the government.

Gates said that moving storage of the metadata outside of the NSA though could be “a more complicated than may seem to be the case on the surface.”

The extent of the NSA's secret surveillance was detailed in a series of leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia to escape espionage and theft charges.

Gates said that while a review of the NSA’s practices was important, that could have been done without the damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures.

“There’s always a value in going back and looking at these programs but you don’t need a series of leaks that are very damaging,” said the former secretary.

The former Pentagon chief, who served in that role under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, recently published his memoirs, which provided an intimate look at the decision making of both commanders-in-chief.

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