Obama says U.S. not snooping on ordinary people

STOCKHOLM Wed Sep 4, 2013 7:06pm EDT

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout via Reuters

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Credit: Reuters/NSA/Handout via Reuters

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The United States does not spy on ordinary people's mail and phone calls, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday, insisting that U.S. intelligence gathering was targeted at specific areas of concern.

Obama has faced questions at home and abroad after Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, leaked documents showing the organization monitors a vast array of email and telephone data of both Americans and foreigners.

"I can give assurances to the public in Europe and around the world that we are not going around snooping at people's emails or listening to their phone calls," Obama said during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

"What we try to do is to target, very specifically, areas of concern," he said, adding that such areas included counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyber-security.

Obama has said safeguards should be strengthened to make sure surveillance programs stay within certain parameters.

"Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it," he said.

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia, which further cooled an already difficult relationship with the United States. The Obama administration wants to bring Snowden back to face espionage charges.

Russia, which the United States sometimes accuses of trampling civil liberties, has used Snowden to portray itself as a protector of human rights. It also says the case exposes double standards on Washington's part.

On Wednesday in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Snowden "a strange guy," but said he would not be handed over to U.S. authorities.

"It's clear now that we won't give him away," Putin told Russian state television and the Associated Press in an interview. "He should feel safe here."

Putin said Russian intelligence had not obtained any information from Snowden.

Obama arrived in Sweden on Wednesday seeking to bolster ties with Washington's Nordic partners before he travels to Russia for a G20 summit expected to be clouded by the Syria crisis.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Roberta Rampton and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (40)
ChicagoFats wrote:
He’s collecting my emails and details of my call records. What exactly am I supposed to call that? A lie is a lie no matter how many times or how many different ways it’s repeated. The government has been caught lying. It has been and continues to violate my rights under the 4th. Amendment to the Constitution. Obama can’t deny his way out of that. To my mind this is an impeachable offense. And I voted for the gentleman.

Sep 04, 2013 9:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
AZreb wrote:
“Trust us” – two words that have lost all meaning when spoken by this administration.

Sep 04, 2013 10:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
Hogwash! Just like his predecessors – all the way back to Reagan – Obama simply redefines anyone being snooped from “ordinary” to a person of interest. Doesn’t make the snooping any less intrusive.

Sep 04, 2013 11:02am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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