NSA leaks: Obama hints at surveillance rethink


President Obama said the US had to "provide more confidence to the international community" over NSA activities

US President Barack Obama has suggested there may be a review of surveillance by the National Security Agency in the wake of a series of spying revelations.

He said in "light of disclosures that have taken place" and public concerns about the programmes "there may be another way of skinning the cat".

But Mr Obama said ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden had caused "unnecessary damage" by leaking documents.

He declined to say whether or not Mr Snowden could be offered an amnesty.

Edward Snowden fled the US in late May, taking a huge cache of secret documents with him. He faces espionage charges in the US and has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

President Obama made his comments at an end-of-year news conference at the White House.

Earlier in the week a federal judge declared the mass collection of telephone data unconstitutional and a presidential advisory panel suggested reforms.

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland The NSA was found to have engaged in large-scale trawling of phone call data

Both the judge and the panel said there was little evidence that any terror plot had been thwarted by the programme.

"There are ways we can do it, potentially, that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances, that there's sufficient oversight and sufficient transparency," Mr Obama said.

He said that programmes like the bulk collection of phone records "could be redesigned in ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse".

Mr Obama said he would make a "definitive statement" in January about recommendations by the White House panel.

"I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around," he added.

But bearing poster in support of Edward Snowden Edward Snowden has his supporters in the US, as this Washington bus shows

"We may have to refine this further to give people more confidence. And I'm going to be working very hard on doing that."

On the subject of possibly granting Mr Snowden an amnesty, Mr Obama said: "I will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in on Mr Snowden's case.''

On Friday, more details of people and institutions targeted by UK and US surveillance - from documents leaked by Edward Snowden - were published by The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel.

The papers said the list of about 1,000 targets included an EU commissioner, humanitarian organisations and Israeli officials including a prime minister.

They suggested that more than 60 countries were targets of the NSA and Britain's GCHQ.

The European Commission said in a statement that the claims, if true, "deserve our strongest condemnation".

"This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states."

In October, news that the NSA had monitored the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel triggered a diplomatic row between Berlin and Washington.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was also angered by revelations that the NSA had hacked the computer network of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras to collect data on emails and telephone calls.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The real threat to Britain is not the surveillance methods which are used by states - all states - but the creeping stranglehold over our sovereignty imposed by the unelected power-greedy oligarchs in the EU.

    On the question of Snowden, the state seem to have lost the moral argument, but cloak-and-dagger operations always tread a fine line that the broader population do not understand.

    Catch 22.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Here we go, giving in to the staggeringly naive, always bleating, Liberals and handing advantage to the likes of China and Russia.

    The spying activities have no impact on 'joe public' other than making you safer. Mr Snowden is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    If governments, banks, corporations and the power elite think they can get away with it, then they'll try their hardest to do so. It's people like Snowden who are our last line of defence against the predators out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    The Government told us lies, used our taxes to kill innocent people, stole our money to give back to the already wealthy so they remain in power. Their tower of babel is starting to show signs of cracking, a good thing. We do not need to be led by lyers and cheats and murderers, your system is corrupt and failing....time will measure you. Merry Cristmas Snowden,Assange,Manning welcome at my house

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    @48. A_Sensible_Bloke

    You're right, if you don't read into the constant media coverage that implies that everything we do is spied on then you can blissfully get on with your life without worrying about anything.

    Although, if they insist on spending our taxes to spy on us, might as well get your fair share and google some buzz words now and again....just to keep them on their toes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    NSA surveillance like Guantanamo activity makes the US appear no different from any (and all) Middle East regimes. Certainly a rethink and a change of direction would restore the faith the world has had in the US, Only the various powerful minority US lobbies would object and try to maintain the status quo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Surely it was only ever going to be a matter of time before countries would use hacking to their best advantage. We are never going to create a drug to make us all moral and upstanding so whilst we ever have free will people will do things which are not always to everybody's advantage. Probably this very second there are dangerous people doing secretive things. We may never know who.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Thanks for the rethink Obi Wan.
    Such a relief to know I can now email my secret Xmas pudding recipe to my sister without it being stolen by those cyber-thieves in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Obama has gone from hero to zero in two short terms. Is anyone surprised?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    So in effect what Obama is saying is "What the NSA did was wrong, in fact a judge ruled it unconstitutional, and Snowden brought this unconstitutional act to light, but we are probably going to send him to prison for doing so". Another instance where justice and the law differ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Thanks to Snowden, the World has been enlightened to how the American Government and 'sadly' our own British Government conduct themselves and have proven to have no regard for the people who put them in power.

    GCHQ should be investigated and those ministers who empowered them should also be investigated.

    How dare our Government pass over details of the UK General Public to the Americans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Britan, America, Russia, China and many others are ALL at it. Trying to invade our homes, privicy and data with there systems. Windows is as it says a "window" into everyones home, designed by a us firm with lots of "back doors" that can be opened by the security services if they wish to look in on anyone. Do not trust tech firms to keep your data safe, trust no one with it other than yourselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    First Snowden is definitely is the men of 2013 should no be no other candidate for the Nobel price for peace for 2014.
    Second until the leader of the two Nation stand on front of the UN assembly for the world and the EU parliament for EU and make a public apology to all should be expel from any international organization.
    No word can describe a wrong is What NSA and GCAQ have done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    UKIP should reflect. The real threat to UK independence comes from binding our foreign and defence policy so closely with that of the USA, not from somebody in Brussels dictating the size of bananas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    No chance that Snowden will not be dealt with as Manning was as the malfeasance disclosed has brought the US, UK, et al 'intelligence' (sic) industry into disrepute - the West now seen to be on-par with Russia and China: snooping, police state, Communist nations! That piety-Inc. Bush Jr/Cheney with their Patriot Act and bud, Tony Blair and the GCHQ could have reduced democracy to this? For shame!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    NSA leaks: Obama hints at surveillance rethink
    That implies that Obama thought at all... I disagree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    It amuses me that the law obligates citizens to report crimes, and yet when crimes are committed by the State it is against the law to report them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    As in the rest of the world it`s in USA, it`s not about ordinary people, but the governments. I don`t believe that Snowden will get amnesty, in particular not soon. Amnesty will be "hot issue" when White House this topic of global spying transfers to Hollywood. However, surveliance and spying is vital part of cyber economy.


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