John Kerry: US Surveillance Went ‘Too Far’ at Times

Posted on: November 1st, 2013 by ABC News No Comments

State Department photo/ Public Domain(LONDON) — U.S. surveillance has been happening “on automatic pilot” and in some cases has gone “too far inappropriately,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.

Participating via teleconference in a summit on governmental transparency, Kerry responded to a question about surveillance and trust in government by offering what may be the lengthiest on-record response by a high-level U.S. government official on the recent wave of reports about U.S. surveillance.

Kerry acknowledged that he and President Obama “learned of” these programs — presumably meaning recently.  The president and others have dodged questions on whether or not Obama was in fact unaware of the programs that have reportedly included spying on foreign leaders.

“There is no question that the president and I and others in government have actually learned of some things that had been happening, in many ways, on an automatic pilot because the technology is there,” Kerry told the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit, moderated in London by British journalist Rageh Omar, on a panel that included British Foreign Minister William Hague.

“I assure you innocent people are not being abused in this process, but there’s an effort to try to gather information.  And yes, in some cases, it has reached too far inappropriately,” Kerry said.

Kerry also defended the large-scale surveillance that has come under criticism, asserting that it has prevented terrorist attacks.

“So what if you were able to intercept that and stop it before it happens?  We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, and people from being assassinated because we’ve been able to learn ahead of time of the plans,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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