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 193.

    Welcome news, public concern over these government organisations need to be addressed if confidence is to be restored, although i have to say that Cameron and GCHQ also have to take a long hard look at our involvement in such activities and do the right thing. Snowden has done a great service for democracy and accountability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Although uncomfortable with the leaking of government secret documents, what Snowden has revealed has managed to highlight questionable data gathering by security forces which has prompted this overdue review into those actions, which is a good thing.

    The protection of a citizens liberty is not the sole responsibility of intelligence services especially when governments infringe upon that freedom

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    "Obama has suggested"
    "There may be another way of skinning the cat".
    "Rethink" is not action.
    "Rethink" may simply entail words = reassurance.
    "Rethink" does not mean anything will essentially change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    How many constitutional laws will this clown break!? He was in breach of the constitution over Libya, (for which he should have been Impeachment) and he's doing it again now!

    Edward, DO NOT accept an amnesty, you will be dead within a week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Disastrous - namby-pamby liberals sabotage international security just at the moment its needed the most - with the rise of aggressive Sharia-law-related Extremism globally. Keep short term political expediency out of international security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    MagicKirin No sorry, you are out of touch. the real traitors are those who deceive, mislead, lie and corrupt others behind a veil of secrecy. A lot of people call them politicians!

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    What this episode also clearly is the sheer impotence of politicians.

    The illusion of democracy we have been fed is fading rapidly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Surveillance rethink? Yes, perhaps. Rethinking how to obscure their entire operation and preventing such an expose ever happening again. Does anyone really think any spy agency will pull back its activities? No, of course not. They will only seek to find better ways of hiding their ops, keeping tighter control of key personnel and ensure their activities will never be exposed to the public again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    "How in hell's name do we determine freedom fighters from terrorists?"

    That's quite simple, those who murder and rape in a cause you support are called "freedom fighters", those you oppose are called "terrorists".

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Boeing lose a massive military fighter jet deal because it's government thinks it can spy on it's 'friends'.

    NSA sping has nothing to do with 'secrurity', it' is all about dodgy corporations spying on it's competition.
    And some of these dodgy corporations have a lot of blood on their hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    USA should also know that the U.K. became victim to Trotsky Marxist Stalinist Communism the pedigree is long and insightful ! its infiltrated and resides in the union/labour/socialist worker movements why else have a avowed Marxist as their leader ? this is why many see Snowden as a Hero anything that weakens the country is welcome ! their aim ? socialist collective state ! Snowden a apparatchik

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Obama talks in terms of "may be". In other words, the only thing that will change will be finding ways in making sure that in future they are less likely to be discovered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Putin is a genius. It seems like every week he finds a new way to embarrass and highlight the flaws, hypocrisy and inflexibility in our so called Western 'democracy'

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I believe that THIS is the "special relationship" between GB & the USA that politicians crow about. So, if our corrupt establishment is allowing the US to spy on us and they do, then what is being received in payment? Not money and "favours" to the already rich and powerful? Once again, greed from the politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I'm reminded of an old joke when stories like this are in the news.

    ' There's a reason why the CIA has to go abroad in search of intelligence.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    "151.paddle_fasterIhear_banjos Snowden may have been right to point out that surveillance was being caried out. It was wrong to give away how"

    Except if he hadn't publicised it how he did it would NEVER have changed.

    Obama and co. are only doing this because EVERYONE knows (they already knew but weren't telling).

    Without Snowdon the NSA would have just kept on doing these thing (and is still)

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Gotta smile at the utter hypocrisy of the US/UK .
    A few months back Clown Party leaders were advocating military engagement in Syria based on a nod and a wink from reliable provider of "evidence" John Kerry.
    Better still they would have been aligned with AL Q "rebels"
    How in hell's name do we determine freedom fighters from terrorists?
    Makes a mockery of debating security dontcha think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Anarchy has a lot going for it... If this is what governments do - all appear to be acting against the will of the people they are supposed to represent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    A lot of fuss from paranoid people about little. Every country is actively engaged in spying.

  • Comment number 174.

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


Page 22 of 31


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