WASHINGTON – During his final press briefing from behind the White House podium Wednesday, departing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that President Obama occasionally listens in on the phone calls of American citizens being monitored by the NSA. Carney said the president’s participation is sporadic and is strictly for amusement and educational purposes.
“President Obama has now and then listened in on some phone calls, mainly for the purpose of understanding how the intelligence community operates. But it’s also been a way for him to relax after a taxing fundraiser or when inclement weather interferes with his time on the golf course.”
After a book signing in Gary, Indiana this afternoon, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confessed to reporters that it wasn’t uncommon to see the president listening to NSA tapped phone conversations during meetings in the Oval Office.
“President Obama found listening in on the conversations of American citizens relaxing. He became particularly obsessed with the phone calls of a Los Angeles woman who was having an affair with her boss, and how the betrayal was creating career problems for the boss’s wife. Fact is, I was recently told the president’s delayed response to the awful attack on our embassy in Benghazi can be attributed to his obsession with listening in on those phone calls. All I can say is, if I were the first woman president I would never, ever listen to the phone calls of my people.”
After a high spirited game of Jarts this afternoon with Barbra Streisand and Rev. Al Sharpton, President Obama spoke with reporters in the Rose Garden. Fox News reporter Ed Henry questioned the president about the validity of eavesdropping on American citizens’ phone calls.
ED HENRY: Mr. President, do you feel the need to apologize for listening in on private telephone conversations of the American people?
OBAMA: First, let me explain that I am not aware of the identity of the people on the other end of the phone line.
ED HENRY: So you believe it’s OK to listen if you don’t know who you’re listening to?
OBAMA: I’m not necessarily saying it’s OK. I mean, the American people have a right to privacy and I for one have fought for that since my administration began.
ED HENRY: With all due respect, Mr. President, how can you say you’ve fought for something that you personally disregard?
OBAMA: I have no idea who I’m listening to, Ed. Do you understand my point? If I don’t know who the people are, what kind of damage is actually being done?
ED HENRY: But, sir …
ED HENRY: OK, to use your analogy, you are there. So when the tree falls you hear it.
OBAMA: Are we going to talk about trees now? I thought we were talking about human beings.
ED HENRY: It was your analogy, Mr. President.
OBAMA: Well, I didn’t mean it literally. OK, if a person is listening to a phone conversation of someone he doesn’t know, is that conversation still private? I say, yes it is.
ED HENRY: But Mr. President, you are listening.
OBAMA: But who am I listening to?
ED HENRY: You’re listening to an American citizen who believes their conversation is private.
OBAMA: But I don’t know who they are!
ED HENRY: Mr. President …
OBAMA: Look, technically speaking, yes, private conversations are being listened to. But the person listening doesn’t know if he’s hearing Tea Party member Bill Hunter in Hailey, Idaho or a conservative republican in Aberdeen, Mississippi named Alice Pompsquatter.
ED HENRY: So you don’t think any harm is being done?
OBAMA: Let’s say I’m listening in on the phone call of a married reporter who works for a big conservative news outlet, and he’s confiding to another reporter how his obsession with Megyn Kelly’s sexy legs is causing him to have sexual problems at home. What possible harm could be done since I don’t know that fella’s name?
ED HENRY: (clears throat) I, uh, see your point, Mr. President. (nervously rummages through notes) Uh, now what I really wanted to ask you about today, can you comment on Al Gore’s warning that global warming is going to make our heads explode?
OBAMA: That’s an excellent question, Ed.