Washington, DC: On Friday, Riham Osman,
MPAC’s Washington, DC, Program Assistant, joined eight Americans across the country for the first “Virtual Road Trip with President Barack Obama on Google+”
Hangout three days after his State of the Union address.
From the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama responded directly to questions posed by diverse Americans about issues he laid out in his speech.
WATCH THE VIDEO: “Join a Virtual Road Trip with President Obama on Google+”
(Start at 30:00) (YouTube.com)
“President Obama, in the speech you gave a couple of weeks ago, you stated that you are making certain reforms to NSA programs to ensure our privacy and civil liberties,” Osman asked from the MPAC office. “From the NYPD spying on Muslim communities to revelations of NSA’s surveillance, a culture of distrust and suspicion has developed among Americans toward government and law enforcement. What are you doing to regain the trust of the American people?”
In his response, President Obama emphasized that "the NSA and our entire intelligence community by law is prohibited from engaging in surveillance of US persons or people in the United States, even if they’re non-citizens, without a court order.”
He explained that data collected had only been accessed when there was evidence of reasonable suspicion of a threat, which does not affect the majority of Americans. Obama said he thought a legitimate concern was raised that if the data were all from one program, the program had potentially been abused. He then referred to his recent announcement that within 60 days, the NSA and FBI would report back on how to move that data out from under government control.
Obama said equality is an important issue for him, adding that he is “very proud of our tradition that all persons are treated equally under the law, including Muslim Americans. Pretty much uniformly in every single interaction I've had with law enforcement and the intelligence community, they are very mindful that any kind of discriminatory actions are going to be dealt with severely. We don't have a lot of patience for that.”
President Obama concluded by saying that “our best defense against extremists is a strong Muslim community working with us and not being viewed with suspicion.”
Osman, who joined MPAC’s staff last summer, has a bachelor’s degree in international affairs with a minor in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Mary Washington
, where she was active with her school's Islamic Student Association and UNICEF Campus Initiative organization.
This past summer, Osman attended MPAC's Young Leaders Government Summit
, and that experience helped to further develop her interest in the policy-making process and solidified her commitment to civic engagement.
Osman was previously an intern at the Regional Institute of Gender, Diversity, Peace, and Rights
located in Omdurman, Sudan
. She also has interned for Phi Beta Kappa Society, where she wrote articles for their online publication, The Key Reporter
Founded in 1988, MPAC is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of American Muslims.