Date: June 13, 2013, 5:45 pm
Subject: Proposed draft of nat'l security address
Valerie, let me know what you think. I need to get this off of my chest, you know?
(Applause fades) My fellow Americans, a lot has been written and said in the last several days regarding how this administration has conducted its efforts to protect Americans from terrorist threats. A lot of it is has been misleading. A lot of it has been misunderstood. Other parts were just flat-out wrong.
The simple truth of the matter is this administration is not snooping on all Americans and we have no intention to use the tools of our intelligence agencies for anything other than nipping terrorist threats in the bud before anyone is hurt.
But, you know, while some of the criticism is coming from the usual political partisans, a lot of it is from people with genuine concerns for our civil liberties. I understand their concerns. Not so long ago, I would have been right there with them. But, frankly, I have had to rethink a lot of this and I now know things aren't as simple as I once thought.
Let me explain where I am coming from: The civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are important to all of us, but to those of us African-Americans even more so. Within living memory, those guarantees were not always there.
Heck, if my grandparents had not moved to Hawaii, I might not even exist. My parents' right to marry was not guaranteed everywhere at the time.
This was part of the reason I studied constitutional law. In what seems like a lifetime ago, I lectured on it at the University of Chicago. So for me, this has a special importance.
So after 9/11, I had the same concerns that a lot of people did regarding where civil rights were going. The government seemed to be overreaching with things like the Patriot Act. I used both my Senate election and my first White House bid as platforms to object and highlight what I saw as abuses. I genuinely believed that I was doing the right thing for all of us.
Then you entrusted me with the presidency and overnight I was no longer an outsider looking in but the person who made the decisions. Suddenly, I had final say on where to draw the line between the needs of security and the limits on those powers.
I had to decide to how proactive the intelligence agencies could be. Do I keep the leash tight and let a potential danger slip through? Do I give them slack and let potentially innocent people become ensared? I know a lot of you think the answers here are easy. I can assure you they are not. Not when people's lives are at stake.
To quote one of my predecessors, "The buck stops here."
So for good or ill, I have decided to err on the side of caution. I gave intelligence agencies the tools to search through mountains of data in the hopes of finding those dangers early.
That means, yes, I have changed my mind. The positions I took a few years ago I no longer hold. That is not an easy thing for me to say. I am a proud man. But I have to own up to this.
With that in mind, I want to offer an apology to my immediate predecessor: I said a lot of things about how you handled this part of the job that I now know were wrong. I still don't agree with everything you did but I know you were doing the best you could and you got it more right than wrong.
To those who remain skeptical: That is fine. Good, even. I need you to raise questions. I need you to help keep me honest.
Just don't expect me to agree with you all of the time.
Date: June 13, 2013, 6:19 pm
Subject: FW: Proposed draft of nat'l security address
See below. I know you hate them, but we've got to let Barry have the cigarettes back. Tobacco withdrawal is clearly driving him nuts.