TODAY   |  June 09, 2013

Gibbs: Obama aims for privacy, security 'balance'

Robert Gibbs, NBC News political contributor and former White House Press Secretary for the Obama administration, talks with TODAY's Erica Hill about the government's surveillance and cyber security tactics revealed this week.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> nbc news political contributor robert gibbs served as president obama 's press secretary and was one of his closest advisers in his first term. he is with us this morning. good morning.

>> good morning. how are you?

>> i'm doing well, thanks. as we look at this, the debate it seems has moved away from the privacy issue to really one of transparency, and we heard the director of national intelligence told andrea mitchell in talking about this leak, he talked about his concern about what this does to u.s. intelligence gathering. based on your experience and your time in the white house , could this ultimately mean less transparency?

>> well, i think, you know, it's interesting -- you have a little bit of a push/pull here. you want greater transparency so people understand, as director clapper and the president have said, we're not reading e-mails, we're not listening to the calls. but you don't want to outsource the methods so that those we are listening to from foreign countries that are calling here, planning something, they understand how to evade those techniques and ultimately get caught.

>> so that sounds like a little bit of yes.

>> well, again, it -- look, none of this is going to ever be perfect. i think what the president has tried to do is strike a balance between protecting privacy, which he believes is very, very important, but also protecting people in this country. and i think this is a program that is -- has a significant amount of judicial review . i think as we talk about it and as we discuss it, you know, it's hard to do in a way -- in some ways that's rational. the byte in that piece earlier where somebody says, this program is almost certainly circum venting the law, i don't think it's very constructive to this debate. i do think the onus clearly is on the administration to try to do what they can to become more transparent and assure people of what the program isn't. i think that's why director clapper did this interview.

>> with what's happening in the administration, the president basically admitting his views have changed since he took office. and changed a lot since he was campaigning back in 2007 and criticizing former president george h.w. bush . so as we look at this, can you pinpoint a time when you were there with him during his first time, when you started to see that change in his thinking on programs like this?

>> well, i think if you -- look, if you look back on the calendar calendar, in june 2008 , then- senator obama supports the reauthorization of the fisa act, the fancy term for the foreign intelligence surveillance act , which begins to set in place some of the policies that you see now. this, though, is very different than the 2005 - 2006 policies of domestic, warrantless wiretapping. and this president, again, i have heard him say many, many times that a program like this has to maintain somebody watching the watchers. and that's why you hear people talking, director clapper, tom donilon, talking about the judicial oversight that is so important in this program, so that somebody is watching the watchers.

>> robert gibbs , nice to have you with us this morning.