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Obama meets privacy board on spy programs

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President Barack Obama held a "candid" meeting with a privacy watchdog board Friday, as he makes the case his White House has not abused power with Internet and telephone surveillance programs. 

US President Barack Obama, pictured in the Rose Garden on June 21, 2013, held a "candid" meeting with a privacy watchdog board Friday, as he makes the case his White House has not abused power with Internet and telephone surveillance programs.

The meeting took place in private, in the secure Situation Room of the White House, to allow classified information to be discussed, officials said, and lasted about an hour.

A White House official said that Obama committed to give the board, set up to ensure US counter-terrorism operations do not infringe civil liberties, with all the materials it needs to do their jobs.

"The meeting was a candid conversation about the dual imperatives of safeguarding our national security and protecting the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens," the official said.

Earlier, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that in the coming weeks, Obama would be meeting various unidentified "stakeholders" in the debate to foster public discussion about the National Security Agency (NSA) programs.

The five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was set in 2004 but has rarely been active. It has only recently been fully staffed, following years of partisan wrangling over its establishment.

It is an independent agency with a mission to analyze and review White House policies and actions on terrorism, and to ensure they are balanced with a need to protect civil liberties and privacy.

Obama has warned that to protect Americans from terrorism there must be some compromises regarding privacy but says he believes he has got the balance largely correct.

He said in Berlin on Wednesday that "lives have been saved" by the programs, details of which emerged in leaks to the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, and around 50 terrorist plots had been disrupted.

Obama has repeatedly explained that the controversial activity, which involves sweeping up data on phone and Internet traffic, does not delve into the specific content of the calls or emails.

Only if there are leads related to terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction would US agents ask a special court to allow them to look deeper into the records, he says.

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