Friday, August 9, 2013

Full Obama Press Conference on NSA Surveillance, Snowden & US-Russia Relations - August 9, 2013

Complete Obama Press Conference on NSA Surveillance, Snowden & US-Russia Relations - August 9, 2013



President Obama held a news press conference Friday afternoon on a number of topics including the national surveillance program, terror threats and Russia.

Obama says he'll work with Congress to change the oversight of some of the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs and name a new panel of outside experts to review technologies.

Specifically, Obama says he wants to work with Congress to insert an opposing voice into arguments before the secret court that approves massive government surveillance efforts. The court currently hears only from Justice Department officials who want the surveillance approved.

The secret court and other surveillance programs have been under scrutiny since NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed classified programs in June. The government has defended these programs as necessary to prevent terror attacks.

Speaking to reporters, Obama says the government can and must be more transparent in how it conducts surveillance.

"It's not enough for me as President to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well."

Obama says he's encouraging Russian President Vladimir Putin to, quote, "think forward instead of backwards" in strained relations with the United States.

Obama says he realizes relations between the two super powers have been difficult lately. He says progress was being made until Putin regained the Russian presidency. Now Obama says there have been "a number of emerging differences," including over Syria and human rights.

The White House this week cancelled a planned summit between Obama and Putin next month in Moscow. That's in part because Russia is refusing to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to the U.S. to face charges of leaking national security secrets.

Obama says Snowden is not a patriot for revealing widespread government surveillance programs.

Obama says he called for a review of the secret surveillance programs before details of documents Snowden leaked to reporters were publicized in June. He says Snowden's disclosures prompted a faster and more passionate response than if Obama had just appointed a board to review the policies.

Obama says he wants more oversight of the intelligence community's surveillance programs to strike a balance between protecting Americans safety and their privacy.

President Obama says the main al-Qaida terrorist group is "on its heels" and "decimated," but its regional groups are powerful enough to attack U.S. interests.

Obama says the core of al-Qaida is less able to carry out a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. But he says offshoots like the one in Yemen have the capacity to go after U.S. embassies and businesses around the world.

It was the threat of such an attack that prompted the U.S. government to close 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa last week.

U.S. intelligence officials had intercepted a message between a top al-Qaida official and his deputy in Yemen about plans for a major terror attack targeting American or other Western sites abroad.

Obama is vowing to bring to justice those responsible for last year's deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

Obama says his administration is intent on capturing those who carried out the attack, noting that it took him longer than 11 months to make good on his promise to find Osama bin Laden.

Obama also says his government has a sealed indictment on some suspected of involvement.

Officials said earlier this week the Justice Department filed the first criminal charges as part of its investigation of the September attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans have criticized the administration's response to the attack and its shifting explanation of what happened.

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President Obama says he has a range of outstanding candidates to lead the Federal Reserve and calls Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen highly qualified to become the next Fed chairman.

Obama says he decided to push back against people who are urging him not to pick Summers because he saw his former economic adviser, in his words, "getting slapped around the press for no reason."

Summers served as the head of the National Economic Council during Obama's first term. Yellen is the vice chair of the Fed.

Obama says he will decide in the fall whom to nominate to succeed the Fed's outgoing chairman, Ben Bernanke.