Who could believe that the President of the United States could say “We don’t have a domestic spying program” when Snowden and others involved with the NSA have provided EVIDENCE that the US most certainly do!
Barack Obama made his first comments on Snowden asylum, saying he was “disappointed” that Moscow had given the leaker temporary refuge. The US President also touched on ‘gay propaganda’ laws in Russia during The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Obama said Russia’s recent decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum reflected the “underlying challenges” he now faces in dealing with Moscow.
“There have been times where they slip back into Cold-War thinking and a Cold-War mentality,” Obama remarked.
Snowden, whose US passport has been revoked, was granted one year’s asylum in Russia last Thursday, finally leaving the confines of the Moscow airport where he had been holed up since June 23. His new residence permit allows the former CIA employee to work and freely travel all across Russia.
Obama told The Tonight Show that the US has no domestic spying program and that the intelligence the country has been gathering is a “critical component to counter terrorism.”
“We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama stated. “What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat. That information is useful.”
Obama complained that with Snowden and the disclosure of classified information has raised “a lot of questions for people.” However, he added that a lot of “these programs” were put in place before he came in.
“I had the programs reviewed, we put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there’s federal court oversight as well as congressional oversight that there is no spying on Americans,” the US president reassured.
Russia repeatedly said it cannot extradite Snowden because there is no legal basis for such action.
“Russia has never extradited anyone, and will not extradite,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in late July.
The US government has described Russia’s move to grant Snowden asylum as “an unfortunate step” for bilateral relations.
The decision to grant Snowden asylum has pushed the White House to reconsider Obama’s plans to pay a visit to Russia in September, when he was expected to attend an international summit in St. Petersburg. It’s not clear yet whether the president is planning to attend any separate meetings with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The White House says it’s currently evaluating the “utility” of such meetings.
PBS America recently interviewed two former NSA officials who blew the whistle on what they say were abused within the NSA.