WASHINGTON — Taking steps to temper public concern, President Obama held his first meeting Friday with a privacy and civil liberties board as his intelligence chief sought ways to help Americans understand more about the government’s sweeping surveillance efforts.
The five members of the obscure Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board huddled with Obama in the White House Situation Room, questioning the president on two National Security Agency programs that have stoked controversy after the extent of US phone and Internet records the government collects were publicly disclosed.
Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and his top lawyer, Kathy Ruemmler, also joined the session.
Obama has insisted the programs are subject to intense judicial and congressional oversight and says he’s confident his administration is striking the proper balance between national security and privacy.
Still, in an attempt to show Obama is serious about welcoming a public discussion about the proper balance, the White House said Obama and his aides would start meeting with a range of interested parties to talk digital privacy — starting with Friday’s meeting.
The White House did not allow press coverage of the meeting.
Members of the privacy board — a federal oversight panel that reviews antiterror programs to ensure that privacy concerns are taken into account — left the White House without speaking to reporters.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
White House announces appointee for FBI director
WASHINGTON — Under fire for authorizing expansive secret surveillance programs, President Obama selected James B. Comey as his new FBI director Friday, choosing a lawyer best known for refusing to sign off on a private data collection plan in the Bush administration.
Introducing Comey in a Rose Garden ceremony, Obama described him as “a leader who understands how to keep America safe and stay true to our founding ideals no matter what the future may bring.” Alluding to the current debate over National Security Agency surveillance programs, Obama said Comey understood “this work of striking a balance” between security and privacy.
Comey, a longtime prosecutor who put away gangsters, gunrunners, and terrorists before rising to deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, will replace Robert S. Mueller III if confirmed by the Senate. With a 10-year term under law, Comey would be in place to outlast this president and possibly even the next one and steer the bureau into the next phase of its post-Sept. 11 evolution.
Comey is best known for a dramatic showdown in 2004 when he and Mueller, among others, refused to reauthorize an expiring NSA surveillance program because they believed that it had exceeded the president’s legal authority, and threatened to resign from the Bush administration if it were extended without their agreement. After a confrontation in the hospital room of an ailing John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, Bush acquiesced to their concerns.
— NEW YORK TIMES
Backers among nominees for 10 US ambassador posts
WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to send the Senate 10 nominees for ambassador, including two active in Democratic Party politics who were top fund-raisers for his presidential campaigns.
Obama announced he intends to nominate Denise Bauer as ambassador to Belgium. Bauer was the finance chairwoman for Women for Obama from 2011 to 2012 and served on the Obama National Finance Committee in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Obama also intends to nominate James ‘‘Wally’’ Brewster to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Now a senior managing partner for the Chicago consulting firm SB&K Global, Brewster was a fund-raiser for Obama and an inaugural committee contributor.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS