President Obama In San Jose: “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls”

President Barack Obama spoke in San Jose today to address concerns over recent revelations about national security programs as well as to tout California’s health care exchanges as a successful part of his health care legislation.

Obama, who was in the Bay Area for fundraisers on Thursday benefiting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, came to the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose this morning and responded to media reports earlier this week about two programs being carried out by his administration.

The reports revealed that federal officials were collecting large amounts of phone records and also collecting data from Internet companies like Google and Facebook as part of their anti-terrorism efforts.

Obama said the programs have been “authorized by broad bipartisan majorities” in Congress, which has “been consistently informed on exactly what we’re doing.”

He emphasized that the intelligence community is only looking at phone numbers and durations of calls, not who was talking nor the contents of the calls.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls, that’s not what this program is about,” Obama said.

As for the program involving the Internet companies, the president said it does not apply to U.S. citizens or people living in the U.S. and said that the actions of intelligence officials are overseen by federal judges.

He acknowledged that there are critics of the programs and their encroachments on privacy.

“I welcome this debate, I think it’s healthy for our democracy,” Obama said.

“We can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Obama also made prepared statements about the federal Affordable Care Act and California’s health care exchange program, which was announced last month by Covered California, the state agency created to set up the marketplace for individual insurance plans.

“Quality care is not something that should be a privilege, it should be a right,” he said.

The president said California is helping to lead the way in reducing the country’s health care costs. The state’s program will include 13 different plans offered for residents seeking health insurance.

He said the competition between the various programs will create “better choices” for consumers.

Obama left the Bay Area following the speech, taking off in Air Force One from Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View.

Dan McMenamin/Jeff Burbank, Bay City News

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