Obama Pledges Tighter Controls on Surveillance Programs
WASHINGTON, August 9 (RIA Novosti) – President Barack Obama defended US intelligence surveillance programs Friday as necessary for the country's security, but acknowledged they needed improvement and pledged efforts to tighten control of them and ease concerns they violated basic civil liberties.
"Repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way," Obama said at a White House news conference amid continuing fallout from revelations about sweeping US surveillance programs leaked to media by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama outlined four specific steps that included working with Congress to tighten surveillance oversight, instructing US intelligence agencies to declassify as much information about the programs as possible and forming an independent expert group to review surveillance procedures and technologies that he said would alleviate concerns.
"All these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values," Obama said.
"To others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people."
Obama praised US intelligence employees and also said: "I believe that those who have lawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties are also patriots who love our country and want it to live up to our highest ideals."
Asked by a reporter if, in light of those comments, he considered Snowden to be a patriot too, Obama stated: "No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot."
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