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Obama Promises More Transparency on US Surveillance

U.S. President Barack Obama is promising more oversight of the U.S. government's surveillance programs aimed at protecting the country from terrorist attacks.

At a news conference Friday in which the president addressed a range of domestic and international issues, Mr. Obama said the United States "can and must be more transparent.''

Mr. Obama said he is confident the surveillance programs are not being abused, but said the American people need to have confidence in them as well. He promised changes to the way the programs are carried out, including a review of current laws by Congress and the formation of an advisory panel to review the government's surveillance powers.

During the news conference, Mr. Obama also addressed former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden who exposed the extent of government surveillance, including programs that monitor telephone calls and Internet usage.

Mr. Obama said he does not believe Snowden, who is now living in temporary asylum in Russia, is a patriot.

When asked about the president's cancellation of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Obama said there has always been some tension with Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union some two decades ago. However, he said he does not have a bad relationship with the Russian president.

In canceling the summit, the White House cited several issues, including Russia's decision to grant asylum to Snowden.

During Friday's news conference, Mr. Obama also repeated his statement from earlier this year that the core of the al-Qaida terrorist network has been "decimated," but said the terrorist group and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups that can pose significant dangers.

Mr. Obama identified al-Qaida's Yemen branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been making headlines lately amid a number of U.S. embassy closures, as one such group.

The president also addressed a range of domestic issues, including health care, immigration and budget battles.

On health care, Mr. Obama said millions of people are already "reaping the benefits" of his new health care overhaul law, known as "Obamacare," which is set to be phased in next year.

The president accused Republicans of wanting to derail his plan, officially called the Affordable Care Act. He said the "holy grail" of Republicans is making sure 30 million people do not have health care.

On immigration, he again spoke out against Republicans, saying their internal politics is what is preventing Congress from passing immigration reform.

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