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 613.

    There is not a single reason to believe Obama's words. "Rethink" means wait until his "Affordable Care" Info Database or the db that replaces Obamacare, is filling up, premiums rise, & people are broke & dependent on the govt. The govt will soothe the gullible with free credits.

    No thanks, President "Transparent Administration" aka Liar. You and the NSA need close observation - by the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    The next world war will not be between nation states but between workers vs. fascist corporatacracies. The rise of the surveillance state and lethal robotics ( a real Robocop) is not a coincidence it will ferret out and suppress, kill, those who revolt against a worldwide corporate dictatorship. The dangerous Trans Pacific Partnership is the Trojan horse of that new evil. The TPP must be opposed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Seems a lot of people are scared of NSA and the US intelligence community with its military partnership. I'd be far more scared if they weren't there or weren't doing their jobs. Sorry if you don't feel protected by them. I don't know if you're right to feel that way but given a choice between saving me and saving you if you're not a US citizen, guess which one they'd pick.I lose no sleep over it

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    604. & 603. nothing disclosed by Snowden helped terrorists whoever they are now? Rag tag brigade's if illiterates in Afghanistan & Pakistan (Taliban), fundamentalists in Yemen and Somalia? About the best they can muster is Benghazi? Hence the refocus of NSA assets to where there is money to be made: global commerce spying! GOP palpable paranoia just doesn't cut it in the post Bush Jr/Cheney era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    608. Quite the list of posts articulating standard Republican intelligence driven (sic) jingoism and its world goals together with Israel's ambitions. The NSA program moved years ago to focus on the needs of US commerce and opportunities for NRA companies, globally. For-profit war is only possible now with North Korea and Iran and both are off the table until 2017. You need a new hymn book!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    drones started as toy model radio controlled planes. What will this evolve into someday in the not too far future?
    You won't outrun this one on foot
    Watch out China

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    sieuarlu @605
    Not just for Xmas
    A pantomime to run
    NSA, "Look behind you!"
    Every defence & security operative knows the world knows the catch,
    in exercise of powers hoped for good, risks of not corruption not just sporadic but systematic, not only commercial 'unfairness' to foreigners but unfairness within US, against companies & parties, individuals & their thoughts on fairness. Conscience stirs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    interesting point but why use typewriters as we will be able to use the Brazilian cloud storage and products made in countries like China who are extremely unlikely to knock on our doors or burst in and all because the security services are acting for big business rather than security which is a great shame, that tape recording you made 35 years ago makes you a terrorist these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    593"emerging ...use of killer robots being frantically developed by US military contractors"

    That's right and now one of those contractors is Google. These will be a terrorist's worst nightmares, worse even than the drones. Don't cross the US government if you don't want to lose sleep worrying about them.They may be autonomous too.The beginning


  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Review, Okay. PR campaign Okay. Change in policy? Only to step up surveillance and integrate intelligence even more. Spy on everyone. Use every means possible to eliminate all threats to the security of the United States, its citizens, its interests at home and around the world. The US is THE superpower. It should act like it. Others don't like it? Too bad. Revert to typewriters like Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Ref #537

    The U.S U.K and Israeli intelligence agencies have done great things for the civilized world
    Unlike Snowden,Manning and Assange who have done great things for terrorism

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    US-UK need a controlled 'free' press to manage opinion and discredit better countries; an outside enemy, exaggerated to justify surveillance and removal of rights. An elected government as a false front.
    A dumbed down public helps.
    US-UK elite also get away with all sorts of nasties, noted in continental press, never ours.
    "None so enslaved as those who think they're free" (Goethe)

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Here's an idea let us all find a really old pair of sneakers , you know the ones that we have demoted to slipping on just to put the trash out, you know those really smelly ones you should cuck out. Then send them if you can spare the cash to either the NSA or GCHQ with a notice attached saying "Spying on innocent law abiding citizens stinks like these" or send a picture instead if you a cash poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    @596 ColadadelCid

    Good point, but your neighbour says they are just being good neighbours and looking out for burgulars. (Which is ok.)

    its when you catch them rifling through your papers and staring into your bathroom window with highpowered binoculars. (Which is not ok.)
    Thats when you call the police.

    Good on Snowden for revealing our stalking governments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    Taking views of all, many provisions would be discussed to agree real 'equality before the law', beyond the simpler notions of some. Equal to a king not a subject, all must have power in law-making. To be citizens in fact not just name, not ruled by kings in all but name, all must have enduring equality of belonging, equal freedom of speech & action if not forfeit (lazy/crime)

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    Ref# 578 I don't want a narc assist of little ethics like Snowden making that decision.

    Like many so called whistle blowers he refuses to face the consequences of his actions

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    Congrats to Snowden, at least the man has a conscience. He deserves to be free. Not likely he'll be able to get another job where he'll be trusted. It's a sad thing that one man can do so much "damage". What if we all grew backbones and stood up for ourselves? Our enemies would have nowhere to hide. That's what scares politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    If your neighbor was spying on your house, looking into your bathroom and bedroom, rifling through your private papers and bank accounts, following the moves of your family and whom they talk to and what they say would you then say "let them spy I have nothing to hide"? No you would probably call the police and take them to court. But it's okay for the governemnt to do this to you? Illogical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    beammeup @ 547:
    "Did you ever wonder who is behind the gov't of the day? I think Presidents and Prime Ministers are just figure heads"

    Of course they are

    With Syria, it was obvious that Obama & Kerry didn't believe the lies they were told to deliver by AIPAC and the RZs.

    It's pointless having $6,000,000,000 elections in the US when whoever is elected will be steered by 'compliant' advisers

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    I am slightly surprised our Ed didn't win Strictly, mind you I thought the beeb were a news organisation not the news.


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