US fugitive Edward Snowden has provoked Russia crisis says Barack Obama as he announces proposals to reform controversial surveillance operations

President pledges more open surveillance and says whistleblower has provoked Russia crisis

President Barack Obama vowed to launch a review of the openness and transparency of American intelligence surveillance operations and conceded that Edward Snowden, the fugitive in Russia, had triggered a “more rapid and passionate response” to the issue than otherwise would have happened.

Referring to the leaks made by Mr Snowden, whose acceptance of temporary asylum in Russia has prompted a new crisis in relations with Washington, Mr Obama was at pains, however, not to suggest any change of heart towards him and his actions. “Mr Snowden was not a patriot,” he said answering a reporter’s question. He went on: “If he believes that what he has done was right”, he can come back to the United States and make his case in court.

In a wide-ranging press conference, Mr Obama also openly acknowledged that ties with Moscow had become more difficult since Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency last year. He was speaking just two days after cancelling a bilateral summit in Moscow with Mr Putin that was to have happened in early September.

Mr Obama said it was true that since Mr Putin came back into power “we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia.  I have encouraged Mr Putin to think forward rather than backwards on those issues”.

Whatever happens with Mr Snowden, the announcements by Mr Obama were a clear admission that ordinary citizens domestically and around the world, are concerned that the main US intelligence, the National Security Agency, may be abusing its considerable powers to intrude on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

Mr Obama spoke of four initiatives to ensure that the balance between privacy and national security is set correctly, including having the NSA set up a web site explaining its programmes to the general public and appointing of a high-level review board of outside intelligence and civil liberties specialists to advise the government.

In addition, Mr Obama said he was would back imposing reforms on the secret court that approves electronic spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and which sets the constitutional limits to the NSA’s activities far from the public gaze.  Mr Obama agreed with critics who believe those advocating against what the US government seeking from the court in each case should be given greater voice in its proceedings.

“The president shares the views that have been expressed by civil libertarians and critics of the government,” a White House official commented ahead of the news conference. “It’s not enough for him as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people have to have confidence in them as well.”

On Mr Snowden, Mr Obama averred that he had “triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board”. The process without Snowden “would have been less exciting, it wouldn’t have generated as much press,” he went on. “I actually think we would have got to the same place and would not have put at risk our national security,” he said.

While the President stopped very far short of endorsing Mr Snowden and recalled that he is facing criminal charges in the United State, he nonetheless did not condemn him either as clearly as might have been expected.

How is comments on Mr Putin will play in Moscow is unclear. Mr Obama noted that the media sometimes exaggerate the problems in the relationship because Mr Putin “has got that kind of slouch” of a student at the back of the classroom. But he added quickly that “when we are in conversation together, oftentimes it’s very productive”.

Drawn into a brief exchange on recent anti-gay legislation in Russia, Mr Obama said “no one more offended” than himself but he did not believe it would be appropriate to boycott the Winter Olympics coming up in Sochi, Russia.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried