Updated at 12:30 pm ET
President Obama said nothing Thursday as the nation was gripped by news that the National Security Agency has been tracking the telephone calls and Internet behavior of millions of Americans.
Obama, who is traveling, had ample opportunity to say something before departing the White House around midday. He made three different speeches – at an education event in North Carolina and two fundraisers in California – but never once alluded to the controversy.
Instead, he left it to a deputy press secretary to issue a carefully worded statement.
Here’s part of it:
The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress. There is also extensive oversight by the executive branch, including the Department of Justice and relevant agency counsels and inspectors general, as well as annual and semi-annual reports to Congress as required by law . . .
My final point here: The president welcomes a discussion of the tradeoffs between security and civil liberties.
Obama will have many opportunities to correct the situation today, starting with a speech he is delivering on Obamacare in San Jose, California at 8:50 am Pacific time.
The White House strategy with respect to the various scandals Obama is facing has consistently been to portray the president as an almost disinterested observer who gets his information on the news like everyone else. But with even allies turning on his over these latest revelations, Obama likely will need a more direct response that explains his views on the matter and acknowledged his responsibility.
UPDATE: Obama finally addressed the issue Friday in San Jose, California, defending the surveillance as necessary and noting it is subject to oversight by both Congress and the judiciary.