News / USA

Obama: US Surveillance Has Averted at Least 50 Threats

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media during a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, June 19, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama listens as German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media during a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, June 19, 2013.
Kent Klein
President Barack Obama has defended U.S. government surveillance activities, saying it has saved lives in countries around the world.  The president seeks to reassure Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German people, as well as Americans, about the nature of the program.

At a joint press conference with the German leader, Obama said the program of Internet surveillance, called PRISM, has been effective while the court-approved process has strictly limited encroachment on privacy.

"This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else.  This is not a situation where we simply go into the Internet and start searching any way that we want," said Obama.

The president said the cautious execution of the surveillance systems has stopped at least 50 threats of terror attacks in the United States and other countries, including Germany.

Obama and Chancellor Merkel discussed this and other issues in their talks when they met earlier in the day.  Merkel said the conversation had "brought us forward" toward a greater understanding of the programs and their value.  But she said they would continue to discuss "issues of balance and proportionality."  

Some Germans had expressed concern that PRISM reminded them of surveillance by the Stasi intelligence agency in the former communist East Germany.

Obama responded to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's angry announcement that he was suspending talks with the United States about keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond next year.  The setback came one day after the U.S. announced that it was starting talks with the Taliban on Thursday.  

The president told reporters he did not expect the Afghan peace process to be easy.

"We had anticipated that at the outset there were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground," stated Obama. "That is not surprising.  As I said, they have been fighting for a very long time."

On Syria, the president said the recently-completed G8 summit in Northern Ireland solidified Western leaders' determination to support the Syrian opposition while isolating extremists among them.  He said he wants to end the war and replace President Bashar al-Assad with a political leader who will bring the country back together.

Merkel said Germany cannot supply arms to the Syrian opposition because it is forbidden by law from doing so.  But she said there are other ways her government can help.

President Obama again said he wants to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so that the United States is not on what he called a "perpetual war footing."   He said he needs cooperation from Congress to close the facility -- a promise he made during his 2008 presidential election campaign.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs